Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

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  • The Fertile Crescent

    The Fertile Crescent is a term for an old fertile area north, east and west of the Arabian Desert in Southwest Asia. The Mesopotamian valley and the Nile valley fall under this term even though the mountain zone around Mesopotamia is the natural zone for the transition in a historical sense.

    As a result of a number of unique geographical factors the Fertile Crescent have an impressive history of early human agricultural activity and culture. Besides the numerous archaeological sites with remains of skeletons and cultural relics the area is known primarily for its excavation sites linked to agricultural origins and development of the Neolithic era.

    It was here, in the forested mountain slopes of the periphery of this area, that agriculture originated in an ecologically restricted environment. The western zone and areas around the upper Euphrates gave growth to the first known Neolithic farming communities with small, round houses , also referred to as Pre Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) cultures, which dates to just after 10,000 BC and include areas such as Jericho, the world’s oldest city.

    During the subsequent PPNB from 9000 BC these communities developed into larger villages with farming and animal husbandry as the main source of livelihood, with settlement in the two-story, rectangular house. Man now entered in symbiosis with grain and livestock species, with no opportunity to return to hunter – gatherer societies.

    The area west and north of the plains of the Euphrates and Tigris also saw the emergence of early complex societies in the much later Bronze Age (about 4000 BC). There is evidence of written culture and early state formation in this northern steppe area, although the written formation of the states relatively quickly shifted its center of gravity into the Mesopotamian valley and developed there. The area is therefore in very many writers been named “The Cradle of Civilization.”

    The area has experienced a series of upheavals and new formation of states. When Turkey was formed in the aftermath of the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians perpetrated by the Young Turks during the First World War it is estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of all Armenians and Assyrians in the region died, and the Pontic Greeks was pushed to Greece.

    Israel was created out of the Ottoman Empire and the conquering of the Palestinian terretories. The existence of large Arab nation states from the Maghreb to the Levant has since represented a potential threat to Israel which should be neutralised when opportunities arise.

    This line of thinking was at the heart of David Ben Gurion’s policies in the 1950s which sought to exacerbate tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Lebanon for the fruits of acquiring regional influence by the dismembering the country and the possible acquisition of additional territory.

    The Christians are now being systematically targeted for genocide in Syria according to Vatican and other sources with contacts on the ground among the besieged Christian community.

    According to reports by the Vatican’s Fides News Agency collected by the Centre for the Study of Interventionism, the US-backed Free Syrian Army rebels and ever more radical spin-off factions are sacking Christian churches, shooting Christians dead in the street, broadcasting ultimatums that all Christians must be cleansed from the rebel-held villages, and even shooting priests.

    It is now time that the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians is being recognized, that the Israeli occupation, settlements and violence against the Palestinians stop, and that the various minorities in the area start to live their lifes in peace – without violence and threats from majority populations, or from the West, and then specificially from the US.

    War in the Fertile Crescent

    Everyone is free to use the text on this blog as they want. There is no copyright etc. This because knowledge is more important than rules and regulations.

  • Archives

Eurasiatic Pastoralists

Eurasiatic Pastoralists

The Mariupol culture

Samara culture

Khvalynsk culture

Domestication of the Horse

Sredny Stog

Suvorovo culture

Early Indo-European community

The Yamna Culture

Human type

Continuity of the Dnieper–Donets culture




Khvalynsk economy





Early Sredni Stog

Forest Zone

Early Uralians

Anatolia and the Levant

Caucasus and Mesopotamia

Late Middle Easterners

Chaff Tempered Ceramics

Maikop Culture

Early Caucasians



Early Anatolians

Steppe Package

Corded Ware

North Pontic Area

Globular Amphorae and Proto-Corded Ware

Late Uralians

Don–Volga–Ural region

North Pontic Region

East-Central European Lowlands

The Yamna Package

Volga–Ural Region

Disintegrating Indo-Europeans

The Transformation of Europe

Late European Farmers

The Mariupol culture

The Mariupol culture also known as Mariupol-type cemeteries was a transitional culture of the Neolithic and Eneolithic (Copper Age), during the second half of the 5th millennium BCE at the Sea of Azov and neighboring regions along the rivers Dnieper, Don, Oril’, Chir and Crimean peninsula, reaching as far as North Caucasus and Kuban Region as well as river Volga.

Mariupol, in older works, referred to as a part of wider Dnieper-Donetsk culture (c. 5000 BC – 4200 BC), also known as the Mariupol type cultures. The Dnieper–Donets culture was a Mesolithic and later Neolithic culture which flourished north of the Black Sea ca. 5000-4200 BC.

There are parallels with the contemporaneous Samara culture to the north. Striking similarities with the Khvalynsk culture and the Sredny Stog culture, which succeeded it, have also been detected. A much larger horizon from the upper Vistula to the lower half of Dnieper to the mid-to-lower Volga has therefore been drawn.

The Dnieper-Donets culture appeared in the early fifth millennium BC along the middle Dnieper to the northern Donets in the areas north of the Black Sea. It quickly expended in all directions, eventually absorbing all other local Neolithic groups. Throughout its existence rapid population growth and an expansion towards the steppe is noticeable.

Influences from the Dnieper–Donets culture and the Sredny Stog culture on the Funnelbeaker culture have been detected. An origin of the Funnelbeaker culture from the Dnieper–Donets culture has been suggested, but this is very controversial.

The Dnieper-Donets culture is known from more than 200 sites. Few settlements from the Dnieper-Donets culture are known, but a few semi-subterranean huts have been found. These huts were covered in bark. The people traced their origins to earlier Mesolithic foragers. It was originally a hunter-gatherer culture.

The economic evidence from the earliest stages is almost exclusively from hunting and fishing. Among the sources of food hunted and foraged by the Dnieper-Donets people were aurochs, elk, red deer, roe, wild boar, fox, wildcat, hare, bear and onager. Their diet was primarily high protein, with meat, fish and nuts being consumed.

The origins of the Dnieper–Donets culture are found in the Swiderian culture, the name of an Upper Palaeolithic/Mesolithic cultural complex, centred on the area of modern Poland. The type-site is Świdry Wielkie, in Otwock near the Swider River, a tributary to the Vistula River, in Masovia. It is recognized as a distinctive culture that developed on the sand dunes left behind by the retreating glaciers.

The relationship between Swiderian and Solutrean outstanding, though also indirect, in contrast with the Bromme-Ahrensburg complex (Lyngby culture), for which the term Baltic Magdalenian has been introduced for generalizing all other North European Late Paleolithic culture groups that have a common origin in Aurignacian.

The people of the Mariupol culture were primarily fisher-hunter-gathers familiar with livestock through exchange or pastoralism. The presence of exotic goods in Dnieper-Donets graves indiciate exchange relationships with the Caucasus.

From around 5200 BC, the Dnieper-Donets people began keeping cattle, sheep and goat. Other domestic animals kept included pig, horse and dog. During the following centuries, domestic animals from the Dnieper further and further east towards the Volga-Ural steppes, where they appeared ca. 4700-4600 BC.

From about 4200 BC, the Dnieper-Donets culture adopted agriculture. Domestic plants that have been recovered include millet, wheat and pea. Evidence from skeletal remains suggests that plants were consumed.

The Dnieper-Donets culture is well known for about thirty of its cemeteries that have been discovered. These contain around 800 individuals. It is evident that funerals complex events that had several phases. Burials are mostly in large pits where the deceased were periodically placed and covered with ocher. The deceased was typically exposed for a time before their bones were collected and buried.

On other occasions the ceased was buried in the flesh without exposure. Deceased Dnieper-Donets people sometimes had only their skulls buried, at other times the entire bodies. The variants of Dnieper-Donets burial often appear in the same pits. Animal bones has also been found in the graves.

Certain Dnieper-Donets burials are accompanied with copper, crystal or porphyry ornaments, shell beads, bird-stone tubes, polished stone maces or ornamental plaques made of boar’s tusk. The items, along with the presence of animal bones and sophisticated burial methods, appear to have been a symbol of power. Certain deceased children were buried with such items, which indicate that wealth was inherited.

Very similar boar-tusk plaques and copper ornament have been found at contemporary graves of the Samara culture in the middle Volga area. Maces of a different type than those of Dnieper-Donets have also been found. The wide adoption of such a status symbol attests to a change in the politics of power.

In later times the deceased in the Dnieper-Donets culture were sometimes buried individually. This shift has been suggested as evidence of a shift towards increasing individualism. Dnieper–Donets burials have been found near the settlement of Deriivka, which is associated with the Sredny Stog culture.

The Dnieper-Donets culture continued using Mesolothic technology, but later phases see the appearance of polished stone axes, later flint and the disappearance of microliths. These tools were sometimes deposited in graves.

Dnieper-Donets pottery was initially pointed based, but in later phases flat-based wares emerge. The importance of pottery appears to have increased throughout the existence of the Dnieper-Donets culture, which implies a more sedentary lifestyle.

The early use of typical point base pottery interrelates with other Mesolithic cultures that are peripheral to the expanse of the Neolithic farmer cultures. The special shape of this pottery has been related to transport by logboat in wetland areas.

Especially related are Swifterbant in the Netherlands, Ellerbek and Ertebølle in Northern Germany and Scandinavia, “Ceramic Mesolithic” pottery of Belgium and Northern France (including non-Linear pottery such as La Hoguette, Bliquy, Villeneuve-Saint-Germain), the Roucadour culture in Southwest France and the river and lake areas of Northern Poland and Russia.

The Mariupol-type cemeteries seem to have had their origins in the late Mesolithic and endured into the Copper Age: a period of more than two thousand years (c. 6500–4000 BC). In a brurial site near the town of Mariupol, on the shores of the Kalmius River, distinctive ochre painting was visible on surface of naturally raised area over surrounding marshlands.

122 burials were discovered in what seemed to be one trench used as community grave, where younger bodies were added to the older one with respect. The position of the bodies was extended supine with a southeast or northwest orientation.

Numerous stone tools including microliths, flint axes, bone beads, necklaces of animal teeth, boar-tusks, bone tutuli and other objects of bone were found. Ceramics is usually lacking. In addition to the name site, other sites are Vasylivka, Dereivka, Vovnigi (on the Dnieper), Dolinka (Crimea), Staronizhesteblievskaya (Kuban Region) and many others.

The final stages of this culture, described as the Post-Mariupol culture, were superseded by the pre-Kurgan Sredny Stog culture, its eastern neighbor of the 5th millennium BC, with whom it co-existed for a time before being finally absorbed. The heir of the Neolithic Dnieper-Donets and Sredniy Stog cultures was the Yamna culture of the northeastern part of the Pontic steppes.

Samara culture

Samara culture is the archaeological term for an eneolithic culture that bloomed around the turn of the 5th millennium BC, located in the Samara bend region of the middle Volga, at the northern edge of the steppe zone.

It was discovered during archaeological excavations in 1973 near the village of Syezzheye in Russia. Related sites are Varfolomievka on the Volga (5500 BC), which was part of the North Caspian culture, and Mykol’ske, on the Dnieper.

The valley of the Samara river contains sites from subsequent cultures as well, which are descriptively termed “Samara cultures” or “Samara valley cultures”. Some of these sites are currently under excavation. “The Samara culture” as a proper name, however, is reserved for the early eneolithic of the region.

Pottery consists mainly of egg-shaped beakers with pronounced rims. They were not able to stand on a flat surface, suggesting that some method of supporting or carrying must have been in use, perhaps basketry or slings, for which the rims would have been a useful point of support. The carrier slung the pots over the shoulder or onto an animal.

Decoration consists of circumferential motifs: lines, bands, zig-zags or wavy lines, incised, stabbed or impressed with a comb. These patterns are best understood when seen from the top. They appear then to be a solar motif, with the mouth of the pot as the sun. Later developments of this theme show that in fact the sun is being represented.

The culture is characterized by the remains of animal sacrifice, which occur over most of the sites. There is no indisputable evidence of riding, but there were horse burials, the earliest in the Old World. Typically the head and hooves of cattle, sheep, and horses are placed in shallow bowls over the human grave, smothered with ochre.

Some have seen the beginning of the horse sacrifice in these remains, but this interpretation has not been more definitely substantiated. We know that the Indo-Europeans sacrificed both animals and people, like many other cultures.

The graves found are shallow pits for single individuals, but two or three individuals might be placed there. A male buried at Lebyazhinka approximately 7,000 years BP and often referred to by scholars of archaeogenetics as the “Samara hunter-gatherer” (a.k.a. I0124; SVP44; M340431), appears to have carried the rare Y-DNA haplogroup R1b1* (R-L278*).

A November 2015 study published in Nature included an analysis of a male hunter-gatherer from Lebyanzhinka, Samara Oblast who lived ca. 5650-5540 BC. He was found to be carrying haplogroup R1b1a1a and U5a1d.

Some of the graves are covered with a stone cairn or a low earthen mound, the very first predecessor of the kurgan. The later, fully developed kurgan was a hill on which the deceased chief might ascend to the sky god, but whether these early mounds had that significance is doubtful.

Grave offerings included ornaments depicting horses. The graves also had an overburden of horse remains; it cannot yet be determined decisively if these horses were domesticated and ridden or not, but they were certainly used as a meat-animal. Most controversial are bone plaques of horses or double oxen heads, which were pierced.

The graves yield well-made daggers of flint and bone, placed at the arm or head of the deceased, one in the grave of a small boy. Weapons in the graves of children are common later. Other weapons are bone spearheads and flint arrowheads. Other carved bone figurines and pendants were found in the graves.

Khvalynsk culture

In the north Caspian steppe, Late Neolithic and the Caspian Sea region culture had coexisted during the Eneolithic in the mid-6th millennium, and in the Lower Volga a change is noticed ca. 5000-4800 BC among the carriers of the North Caspian culture, coincident with the beginning of a rather wet period.

The Samara culture is regarded as related to contemporaneous or subsequent prehistoric cultures of the Pontic-Caspian steppe, such as the Khvalynsk, Repin and Yamna (or Yamnya) cultures. The Proto-Indo-European homeland is often linked to one or more of these cultures.

The later stages of the Samara culture are contemporaneous with its successor culture in the region, the early Khvalynsk culture (4700–3800 BC), while the archaeological findings seem related to those of the Dniepr-Donets II culture (5200/5000–4400/4200 BC).

Nina Morgunova regards Khvalynsk I as Early Eneolithic, contemporary with the second stage of Samara culture called Ivanovka and Toksky stage, which pottery was influenced by Khvalynsk culture, as calibrated period of this second stage of Samara culture is 4850–3640 BC.

Marija Gimbutas, however, believed Samara was earlier and placed Khvalynsk I in the Developed Eneolithic. Not enough Samara culture dates and sites exist to settle the question. After c. 4500 BC, Khvalynsk culture united the lower and middle Volga sites keeping domesticated sheep, goats, cattle, and maybe horses.

The third stage of the Samara culture (marked by the Totsky-type grave goods, from Ivanovka), attested until the mid–4th millennium BC, can be included in the late Khvalynsk culture (c. 4900–3500 BCE), a Middle Copper Age (for Eastern Europe named “Eneolithic”) culture of the middle Volga region, discovered at Khvalynsk on the Volga in Saratov Oblast, Russia.

The Khvalynsk culture was preceded by the Early Eneolithic Samara culture, from which it came, and succeeded by the Late Eneolithic, Early Yamna culture, into which it developed. It extended from Saratov in the north to the North Caucasus in the south, from the Sea of Azov in the west to the Ural River in the east. C-14 readings obtained from material in the graves of the type site date the culture to 5000–4500 BC.

The early Khvalynsk culture may have been an autochthonous culture based on the previous North Caspian culture, or its genesis could be the result of a migration of tribes from the southern region of the Trans-Caspian area.

The Khvalynsk culture started to settle in the south of the Volga valley, reaching about 4900 BC wormwood deserts in the north-west of the Caspian area and the Mangyshlaks peninsula in the east of the Caspian area –testified by many finds of ceramics with comb decoration –, where the Khvalynsk population partly assimilated the native inhabitants.

However, a part of the North Caspian culture probably migrated to the Saratov Trans-Volga region, where it was assimilated Orlovka culture. Both events may account for the introduction of CHG ancestry in the populations of the steppe.

This material is from Khvalynsk I, or Early Khvalynsk. Khvalynsk II, or Late Khvalynsk, is Late Eneolithic. The Khvalynsk type site is a cemetery, 30 m by 26 m, containing about 158 skeletons, mainly in single graves, but some two to five together. They were buried on their backs with knees contracted. Twelve of the graves were covered with stone cairns. Sacrificial areas were found similar to those at Samara, containing horse, cattle and sheep remains.

An individual grave was found in 1929 at Krivoluchie with grave goods and the remains placed on ochre, face up, knees contracted. A 67 m high earthen kurgan at Nalchik, approximately thirty metres in diameter, contained 121 individual graves of remains placed face up, knees contracted, on ochre with a covering of stone.

Khvalinsk evidences the further development of the kurgan. It began in the Samara with individual graves or small groups sometimes under stone. In the Khvalinsk culture one finds group graves, which can only be communal on some basis, whether familial or local or both is not clear. With the advent of DNA testing, perhaps someday it will be.

Although there are disparities in the wealth of the grave goods, there seems to be no special marker for the chief. This deficit does not exclude the possibility of a chief. In the later kurgans, one finds that the kurgan is exclusively reserved for a chief and his retinue, with ordinary people excluded.

This development suggests a growing disparity of wealth, which in turn implies a growth in the wealth of the whole community and an increase in population. The explosion of the kurgan culture out of its western steppe homeland must be associated with an expansion of population. The causes of this success and expansion remain obscure.

We do know that metal was available both in the Caucasus and in the southern Urals. The Khvalynsk graves included metal rings and spiral metal rings. However, there is no indication of any use beyond ornamental.

The quality of stone weapons and implements reaches a high point. The Krivoluchie grave, which Gimbutas viewed as that of a chief, contained a long flint dagger and tanged arrowheads, all carefully retouched on both faces. In addition there is a porphyry axe-head with lugs and a haft hole. These artifacts are of types that not too long after appeared in metal.

There is also plenty of evidence of personal jewelry: beads of shell, stone and animal teeth, bracelets of stone or bone, pendants of boar tusk. The animals whose teeth came to decorate the putative Indo-Europeans are boar, bear, wolf, deer and others. Some of these teeth must have been difficult to acquire, a labor perhaps that led to a value being placed upon them. Whether they were money is not known.

The hard goods leave no record of any great richness. There is some evidence that wealth may have consisted of perishable goods. In fact, in many similar cultures of later times, wealth was reckoned in livestock.

A recent study of the surface of the pottery (also of many cultures), which recorded contact with perishable material while the clay was wet, indicates contact with cords and embroidered woven cloth, which the investigators suggest were used to decorate the pot.

Examination of physical remains of the Kvalynsk people has determined that they were Europoid. A similar physical type prevails among the Sredny Stog culture and the Yamnaya culture, whose peoples were tall and powerfully built.

Khvalynsk people were however not as powerfully built as the Sredny Stog and Yamnaya. The people of the Dnieper-Donets culture further west on the other hand, were even more powerfully built than the Yamnaya.

Recent genetic studies have shown that males of the Khvalynsk culture carried primarily the paternal haplogroup R1b, although a few samples of R1a, I2a2, Q1a and J has been detected. They belonged to the Western Steppe Herder (WSH) cluster, which is a mixture of Eastern Hunter-Gatherer (EHG) and Caucasian Hunter-Gatherer (CHG) ancestry.

This admixture appears to have happened on the eastern Pontic–Caspian steppe around 5,000 BC. A male from the contemporary Sredny Stog culture was found to have 80% WSH ancestry of a similar type to the Khvalynsk people, and 20% Early European Farmer (EEF) ancestry.

Among the later Yamnaya culture, males carry exclusively R1b and I2. A similar pattern is observable among males of the earlier Dnieper-Donets culture, who carried only R and I and whose ancestry was exclusively EHG with Western Hunter-Gatherer (WHG) admixture.

The presence of EFF and CHG mtDNA and exclusively EHG and WHG Y-DNA among the Yamnaya and related WSHs suggest that EFF and CHG admixture among them was the result of mixing between EHG and WHG males, and EEF and CHG females. This suggests that the leading clans among the Yamnaya were of EHG and WHG origin. According to David W. Anthony, this implies that the Indo-European languages were originally spoken by EHGs.

Domestication of the Horse

A number of hypotheses exist on many of the key issues regarding the domestication of the horse. Although horses appeared in Paleolithic cave art as early as 30,000 BCE, these were wild horses and were probably hunted for meat.

Horses were domesticated in the western part of the Eurasian Steppes, in the Pontic-Caspian Steppe, perhaps somewhere around the Don or the lower Volga (Ukraine, southwest Russia and west Kazakhstan), approximately 4600 BCE.

Horses soon became a defining element of steppe culture. Use of horses spread across Eurasia for transportation, agricultural work and warfare. Domestic horses then spread across Europe and Asia, breeding with wild mares along the way. Experts think they were used for riding, and as a source of meat and milk.

The oldest possible archaeological indicator of a changed relationship between horses and humans is the appearance about 4800-4400 BCE of horse bones and carved images of horses in Chalcolithic graves of the early Khvalynsk culture and the Samara culture in the middle Volga region of Russia.

At the Khvalynsk cemetery near the town of Khvalynsk, 158 graves of this period were excavated. Of these, 26 graves contained parts of sacrificed domestic animals, and additional sacrifices occurred in ritual deposits on the original ground surface above the graves.

Ten graves contained parts of lower horse legs; two of these also contained the bones of domesticated cattle and sheep. At least 52 domesticated sheep or goats, 23 domesticated cattle, and 11 horses were sacrificed at Khvalynsk. The inclusion of horses with cattle and sheep and the exclusion of obviously wild animals together suggest that horses were categorized symbolically with domesticated animals.

At S’yezzhe, a contemporary cemetery of the Samara culture, parts of two horses were placed above a group of human graves. The pair of horses here was represented by the head and hooves, probably originally attached to hides.

The same ritual—using the hide with the head and lower leg bones as a symbol for the whole animal—was used for many domesticated cattle and sheep sacrifices at Khvalynsk. Horse images carved from bone were placed in the above-ground ochre deposit at S’yezzhe and occurred at several other sites of the same period in the middle and lower Volga region.

Together these archaeological clues suggest that horses had a symbolic importance in the Khvalynsk and Samara cultures that they had lacked earlier, and that they were associated with humans, domesticated cattle, and domesticated sheep.

Thus, the earliest phase in the domestication of the horse might have begun during the period 4800-4400 BCE. The domestication of the horse should be attributed to the newly arrived R1b, indigenous R1a people, or tribes belonging to the older R1b-P297 branch

Samples from Mesolithic Samara and Latvia all belonged to R1b-P297, which settled in eastern Europe during the Late Paleolithic or Mesolithic period. Autosomally these Mesolithic R1a and R1b individuals were nearly pure Mesolithic East European, sometimes with a bit of Siberian admixture, but lacked the additional Caucasian admixture found in the Chalcolithic Afanasevo, Yamna and Corded Ware samples.

About 4200-4000 BCE, more than 500 years before the geographic expansion evidenced by the presence of horse bones, new kinds of graves, named after a grave at Suvorovo, where a burial of a male and female in a joint grave was found, appeared north of the Danube delta in the coastal steppes of Ukraine near Izmail. At the Suvorovo site the male was buried with a “horse-head” scepter in stone. Under the same kurgan two other burials were found. The base of the kurgan was formed by a stone kerb of 13 m in diameter.

Sredny Stog

At the same time as early Khvalynsk formed to the east, in the steppe Volga basin, almost simultaneously appeared the early Sredni Stog culture in the Don-Kalmius interfluve, with the Nalchik cemetery being synchronous with its first periods.

Both seem to be interconnected through a common origin from the Samara culture of the Middle Volga and the North Caspian culture, and while there are cultural differences that point to an original division, both seem to form part of a Sredni Stog-Khvalynsk cultural-historical area, with similar funerary customs and ornaments.

The Sredny Stog culture (c. 4500 BC – 3500 BC) is a pre-Kurgan archaeological culture named after the Russian term for the Dnieper river islet of today’s Seredny Stih, Ukraine, where it was first located.

The Sredny Stog culture is named after the Russian term for the Dnieper river islet of today’s Seredny Stih, Ukraine, where it was first located. The Sredny Stog culture was situated across the Dnieper River on both its shores, with sporadic settlements to the west and east.

The Sredny Stog culture was situated across the Dnieper river on both its shores, with sporadic settlements to the west and east. It seems to have had contact with the agricultural Cucuteni-Trypillian culture in the west and was a contemporary of the Khvalynsk culture.

One of the best known sites associated with this culture is Dereivka, located on the right bank of the Omelnik, a tributary of the Dnieper, and is the most impressive site within the Sredny Stog culture complex, being about 2,000 square meters in area.

The Sredny Stog culture is known for initiating the domestication of horses. The Sredny Stog people are distinguished from the other cultures found in the Balkans by the way they lived more mobile lives. This was seen in their temporary settlements, particularly their dwellings, which were simple rectilinear structures.

The chronology of Sredny Stog has been divided into two distinct phases. Phase II (ca. 4000–3500 BC) used corded ware pottery, which may have originated there, and stone battle-axes of the type later associated with expanding Indo-European cultures to the West. Most notably, it has perhaps the earliest evidence of horse domestication (in phase II), with finds suggestive of cheek-pieces (psalia).

In 4350–4200 BC, the settlements of the Sredny Stog culture were only known in valleys of the Don and Dnieper as well as in the forest–steppe border zone (the Severski Donets basin). These sites were absent from open steppes as a result of the increased aridity and deterioration of living conditions in the southern zone and in valleys with small rivers.

The Sredny Stog culture is known for initiating the domestication of horses. The Sredny Stog people are distinguished from the other cultures found in the Balkans by the way they lived more mobile lives. This was seen in their temporary settlements, particularly their dwellings, which were simple rectilinear structures.

Most notably, it has perhaps the earliest evidence of horse domestication (in phase II), with finds suggestive of cheek-pieces (psalia). Evidence revealed that the culture has domesticated the wild Przewalski’s horse 4000 BC. However, there is no conclusive proof that horses were used for riding since they were mainly employed for gathering food.

In its three largest cemeteries, Alexandria (39 individuals), Igren (17) and Dereivka (14), evidence of inhumation in flat graves (ground level pits) has been found. This parallels the practise of the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture, and is in contrast with the later Yamna culture, which practiced tumuli burials.

In Sredny Stog culture, the deceased were laid to rest on their backs with the legs flexed. The use of ochre in the burial was practiced, as with the kurgan cultures. For this and other reasons, Yuri Rassamakin suggests that the Sredny Stog culture should be considered as an areal term, with at least four distinct cultural elements co-existing inside the same geographical area.

The expert Dmytro Telegin has divided the chronology of Sredny Stog into two distinct phases. Phase II (ca. 4000–3500 BC) used corded ware pottery which may have originated there, and stone battle-axes of the type later associated with expanding Indo-European cultures to the West.

In the context of the modified Kurgan hypothesis of Marija Gimbutas, this pre-kurgan archaeological culture could represent the Urheimat (homeland) of the Proto-Indo-European language. It seems to have had contact with the agricultural Cucuteni-Trypillian culture in the west and was a contemporary of the Khvalynsk culture.

One of the best known sites associated with this culture is Dereivka, located on the right bank of the Omelnik, a tributary of the Dnieper, and is the most impressive site within the Sredny Stog culture complex, being about 2,000 square meters in area.

A part of the Sredniy Stog population migrated from the southern steppes to the southern region of modern forest–steppe zone, where the migrants assimilated with the local Dnieper– Donets Neolithic population to form a new Eneolithic Dereivka culture chronologically correlated with the stage of climate aridity (4300–3800 BC). Most of the documented settlements and burials were found only in the northern present-day steppe and the southern forest–steppe zone.

Probably, during a 100 year-interval, two co-existent Eneolithic cultures occupied the southern regions, with the Dereivka culture established under more favorable environmental conditions in a border zone of steppe and forest–steppe, with some woods on watersheds and biotically richer river valleys.

In the steppe zone of the Dnieper valley, marginal populations of the Late Sredny Stog culture practicing agriculture and animal husbandry suffered from regular droughts, causing reduction of parkland habitats.

A new stage with increased moisture started between 4250 and 4150 BC. Improved living conditions in the southern steppe zone lead to expansion of the Dereivka population, gradually assimilating the local populations by ca. 4200 BC. The Sredny Stog culture ended at around 3500 BC, when the Yamna culture expanded westward replacing Sredny Stog, and coming into direct contact with the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture in the western Ukraine.

Suvorovo culture

The Suvorovo culture (4500 – 4100 BC), also called the Suvorovo group, was a Copper Age culture which flourished on the northwest Pontic steppe and the lower Danube. In accordance with the Kurgan hypothesis the Suvorovo culture is evidence of a westward expansion of early Indo-European peoples from their homeland on the steppe.

The Suvorovo culture is entirely defined by its burials. These include kurgans and flat graves. Burials are oriented towards the east or northeast in a supine position with legs either flexed or extended. Roofs of the burial chambers are often covered with stone slabs or logs. Suvorovo graves were similar to and probably derived from earlier funeral traditions in the steppes around the Dnieper River.

The Suvorovo kurgans are the earliest ones to appear in Southeast Europe. Its features are characteristic of cultures on the steppes and forest-steppes further east in Ukraine and southern Russia. Typical grave goods include ceramics both the Gumelnița–Karanovo culture and the Cucuteni–Trypillia culture, and shell-tempered wares that are typical of the steppe.

Some Suvorovo graves contained polished stone mace-heads shaped like horse heads and horse tooth beads. Earlier steppe graves also had contained polished stone mace-heads, some of them carved in the shape of animal heads. Settlements in the steppes contemporary with Suvorovo, such as Sredni Stog II and Dereivka on the Dnieper River, contained 12–52% horse bones.

When Suvorovo graves appeared in the Danube delta grasslands, horse-head maces also appeared in some of the indigenous farming towns of the Tripolye and Gumelnitsa cultures in present-day Romania and Moldova, near the Suvorovo graves.

These agricultural cultures had not previously used polished-stone maces, and horse bones were rare or absent in their settlement sites. Probably their horse-head maces came from the Suvorovo immigrants.

The Suvorovo people in turn acquired many copper ornaments from the Tripolye and Gumelnitsa towns. After this episode of contact and trade, but still during the period 4200-4000 BCE, about 600 agricultural towns in the Balkans and the lower Danube valley, some of which had been occupied for 2000 years, were abandoned.

This collapse of “Old Europe” has been attributed to the immigration of mounted Indo-European warriors. Copper mining ceased in the Balkan copper mines, and the cultural traditions associated with the agricultural towns were terminated in the Balkans and the lower Danube valley.

The collapse could have been caused by intensified warfare, for which there is some evidence; and warfare could have been worsened by mounted raiding; and the horse-head maces have been interpreted as indicating the introduction of domesticated horses and riding just before the collapse.

However, mounted raiding is just one possible explanation for this complex event. Environmental deterioration, ecological degradation from millennia of farming, and the exhaustion of easily mined oxide copper ores also are cited as causal factors.

Early Indo-European community

The formation of an Early Indo-European community should be traced back to this period. After the adoption of related dialects by steppe communities at the end of the 6th millennium, a rapid succession of events suggests the beginning of a clear division within the steppe.

During the 5th millennium, a strong, long-lasting, east-west oriented exchange network can be observed in the north Pontic area between the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture in the forest-steppe and Skelja (including the site at Deriivka) in the coastal steppe.

These close interactions were also maintained with Sredni Stog and Khvalynsk populations, and it seems to have been driven by an interest in metal objects. In fact, the Khvalynsk centre of metalworking was formed under western influences, among which the Early Trypillian centre dominated.

The exchange systems between the north-west Pontic area and the steppe during the Eneolithic included intercommunal exchange within the ethnolinguistic groups (such as the Sredni Stog internal exchange of natural resources, like flint materials); exchange with the nearest neighbours (such as prestigious exchange between Sredni Stog and the Trypillian, Kiev-Cherkassy, Donetsk and Middle Don cultures, as well as Northern Caucasus and Crimea); and the long distance exchange, which included special expeditions, planned beforehand by men with high social status, their leaders being heads of separate villages, accompanied by symbols of power, and made far from friendly villages. An example of the latter is the Suvorovo-Novodanilovka complex in the Balkans.

The revolution of herding, travel, and raiding – and thus the change in the steppe – had come with horseback riding, appearing ca. 4800 BC in early Khvalynsk, and spreading south- and eastward. Within the Sredni Stog territory, a new elite group appeared at the end of the 5th millennium.

They came from the eastern steppe, and they were probably involved in raiding and trading with the lower Danube valley during the Trypillian B1 period, associated with the Suvorovo-Novodanilovka complex, before and during the collapse of Old Europe.

Settlements of Suvorovo-Novodanilovka chiefs have been found along the lower Danube, and sites of the posterior Cernavodă I culture (ca. 3600 BC) seem to represent the assimilation of migrants from the steppes, therefore linked to Anthony’s first expansion from the Pontic-Caspian steppes into the Balkans ca. 4200-4000 BC.

The migration of these elite horse-riding chiefs should then be associated with the expansion of a Pre-Anatolian dialect from a common Middle Proto-Indo-European language spoken by the Khvalynsk population.

Their temporal domination (or mere presence, testified by solitary kurgans outside of the main area of concentration of settlements) over territories of the Sredni Stog population, may have left common traits in both.

Three samples dated ca. 5150 BC are found in early Khvalynsk, one of R1b1a-L754 (probably M269), one of R1a1-M459, and one of Q1a-F903 lineage, which points to a time preceding or coinciding with the successful expansion of R1b1a1a2-M269 lineages.

While the R1b1a-L754 sample was reported as from a high-status burial, similar to high-status individuals buried under kurgans in later Yamna graves, and therefore founder of an elite group of patrilineally-related families, the R1a1-M459 individual shows scarce decoration and his lineage is not found in later high-status Yamna graves.

While the R1a1-M459 individual has more EHG ancestry than the other two, and clusters closely with Samara hunter-gatherers, the R1b1a-L754 individual is closer to later steppe samples in PCA.

The individual of Q1a-F903 lineage clusters closer than any other Eneolithic or Chalcolithic steppe sample to ANE ancestry, potentially revealing the lineage (and Eurasian origin of the wave) that brought this ancestry to later steppe samples.

Samples from Late Sredni Stog include one of haplogroup R1a1a1-M417, from Alexandria, dated ca. 4200 BC, and one of R1b1a-L754 (xP297, xM269), from Dereivka, dated ca. 3966 BC.

Both cluster closer than previous Mesolithic samples to Balkan samples and ANE ancestry (and thus to eastern steppe samples), and there is an important contribution of steppe-related ancestry (defined by posterior samples from east Yamna) in both, especially in the R1a1a1-M417 individual.

The so-called ‘Yamna’ or steppe component is found thus increased in Sredni Stog compared to early Khvalynsk samples (a thousand years older), which points to a gradual distribution of the component in the steppe from contacts among cultures of the steppe and the Caucasus.

A later sample from Dereivka clusters closely with Mesolithic samples, and a sample from a neighbouring region attributed to the Dnieper-Donets culture, dated to a similar time (ca. 4380 BC), belongs to haplogroup R1a-M420, all of which points to a period of lineage diversity before an expansion of haplogroup R1a1a1-M417, and to the strong connection between the North Pontic steppe and the Baltic.

Steppe ancestry is also found in an individual from Varna I (ca. 4630 BC) – which clearly shows CHG component – and in samples from Smyadovo, in contrast with the resurgence of WHG ancestry in central Europe and Iberia. Also, two individuals of haplogroups R-M207 and R1b1a-L754 (dated ca. 4500 BC) are found in Smyadovo, and one of haplogroup R1-M173 (dated ca. 4460 BC) in Varna I cemetery.

These samples are not proven to correspond to R1b1a1a2-M269 lineages, and dates are slightly earlier for the mass migration proposed by Anthony. Nevertheless, the region shows a discontinuity in R1b1a1a-P297 lineages in the Balkans after the arrival of Middle East Neolithic farmers (of G2-P15 lineages), which represent around half of more than 30 Y-DNA samples in the period from 6000 BC to 4500 BC.

The fact that haplogroup R-M207 is not found in later Balkan samples either (until the second Yamna expansion) is also significant, potentially pointing to a transitory presence of this haplogroup from the steppe. Also, steppe imports are already found in Gumelnița, in the Lower Danube region, from about 4400 BC.

The older origin of haplogroup R1b1a1a2-M269 (ca. 11300 BC) compared to a later TMRCA (ca. 4300 BC) for the subclades survived in the modern population, coinciding with the successful spread of basal R1b1a1a2a-L23* (formed ca. 4300 BC, TMRCA ca. 4200 BC), point to an expansion that occurred around this time period.

This population expansion came probably from some eastern clans of Pontic-Caspian herders that shaped the Sredni Stog culture in the west, and turned into Suvorovo-Novodanilovka chiefs and south-eastern European settlers.

Both lineages are found in the Balkans, Central Europe, and Armenia, and their expansion is therefore to be associated with the original expansion of Anatolian speakers.

Anthony’s third migration wave of ca. 3000-2800 BC must include the expansion of peoples of R1b1a1a2a2-Z2103 and R1b1a1a2a1-L51 lineages into Europe. The most obvious material division within the early Yamna horizon was between east and west.

According to forming and TMRCA dates of R1b1a1a2a2-Z2103 lineages, communities carrying different R1b1a1a2a2-Z2103 subclades might have already developed differentiated groups based on clans within the Volga–Ural–North Caucasian zone, a part of the more mobile eastern Yamna pastoral economy.

This region included the Volga-Ural variant between the Volga and Ural Rivers (with Lower Volga, Middle Volga, and Ural regions), and the North Caucasus variant (right bank of the Volga River region, Kalmykia, and North Caucasus until the Terek River). In the central region of Kalmykia, a late sample at Stalingrad Quarry ca. 2675 BC – after the migrations into south-eastern Europe – shows a subclade R1b1a1a2a2c-Z2106.

The remaining North-West Indo-European community – separated from Pre-Tocharian speakers – lived more likely around the South Bug – Lower Don steppe, and it is possible that their lineages were dominated by R1b1a1a2a1-L51 lineages, which had expanded with successful clans probably by 3900 BC according to its TMRCA, and to the same time of formation of subclade R1b1a1a2a1a-L151.

This region included the Don River variant (Lower Don from the Ilovlya River to the mouth of the Don River and valley of the Western Manych River); the Siverskyi Donets variant (right bank of the Siverskyi Donets River between modern Kharkiv and Luhansk cities); the Azov variant (steppe of the Northern Azov Sea coast); the Crimea variant; the Lower Dnieper variant (from the Orel River and the Inhulets River to the Black Sea cost) with the Bilozirka, Nikopol, Kryvyi Rih, Dnieper “Stone stream”, Left bank of the Dnieper, and Black Sea coast regions; the North-Western variant (steppe and forest-steppe borderland on the Middle Dnieper and to the west from it), and the South-Western Variant (between Bug and Danube rivers).

Local groups of the north Pontic steppe include the Donetsk group, the Middle Dnieper group, the Lower Dnieper and the Azov-Crimea groups, and the Southern Bug group. The kurgans between the Dniester and the Prut Rivers received influences from the main neighbouring regions – such as EBA of central and south-east Europe, Globular Amphora, and Corded Ware, Foltești 2 and Coţofeni cultures –, and two cultural-chronological variants are described: the Early Dniester variant and the Late Budzhak variant.

The western community expanded west possibly early within the southern stream of the third migration wave (with a TMRCA ca. 2800 BC for R1b1a1a2a1a-L151), from the Bug-Dnieper-Azov steppes into the lower Danube valley and Bulgaria. They pushed farther up the Danube to the middle Danube valley in eastern Hungary through an Old Europe in crisis – contemporary with late Baden / Cernavodă III.

The Yamna Culture

The people of the Yamnaya culture were likely the result of a genetic admixture between the descendants of Eastern European Hunter-Gatherers and people related to hunter-gatherers from the Caucasus.

People with this ancestral component are known as Western Steppe Herders (WSH), or Steppe Pastoralists, the name given to a distinct ancestral component that represents descent from the Yamnaya culture of the Pontic-Caspian steppe. This ancestry is often referred to as Yamnaya Ancestry, Steppe Ancestry or Steppe-Related Ancestry.

WSHs are considered descended from Eastern Hunter-Gatherers (EHGs) who received some admixture from Caucasian Hunter-Gatherers (CHGs) during the Neolithic. The Y-DNA of the WSHs was mostly types of R1a and R1b, which are EHG lineages, suggesting that CHG admixture among the WSHs came through EHG males mixing with CHG females.

Around 3,000 BC, people of the Yamnaya culture, who belonged to the WSH cluster, embarked on a massive expansion throughout Eurasia, which might have resulted in the dispersal of Indo-European languages. WSH ancestry from this period is often referred to as Steppe Early and Middle Bronze Age (Steppe EMBA) ancestry.

This expansion led to the rise of the Corded Ware culture, whose members were of about 75% WSH ancestry, and the virtual disappearance of the Y-DNA of Early European Farmers (EEFs) from the European gene pool, significantly altering the cultural and genetic landscape of Europe.

During the Bronze Age, Corded Ware people with admixture from Central Europe remigrated onto the steppe, forming a type of WSH ancestry often referred to as Steppe Middle and Late Bronze Age (Steppe MLBA) ancestry.

Through the Sintashta culture, Andronovo culture and Srubnaya culture, Steppe MLBA was carried into Central Asia and South Asia along with Indo-Iranian languages, leaving a long-lasting cultural and genetic legacy.

The modern population of Europe can largely be modeled as a mixture of WHG (Western Hunter-Gatherer), EEF and WSH. In Europe, WSH ancestry peaks among Norwegians (ca. 50%), while in South Asia, it peaks among the Kalash people (ca. 50%) and Brahmins.

The Yamnaya culture

The earliest example of an invasion by a horse people may have been by the Proto-Indo-Europeans themselves, following the domestication of the horse in the 4th millennium BC. The Yamnaya culture is identified with the late Proto-Indo-Europeans, and is the strongest candidate for the urheimat (original homeland) of the Proto-Indo-European language.

The Yamnaya culture, also known as the Yamnaya Horizon, Yamna culture, Pit Grave culture or Ochre Grave culture, was a late Copper Age to early Bronze Age archaeological culture of the region between the Southern Bug, Dniester, and Ural rivers (the Pontic steppe), dating to 3300–2600 BC.

Its name derives from its characteristic burial tradition: Ямная (romanization: yamnaya) is a Russian adjective that means ‘related to pits (yama)’, and these people used to bury their dead in tumuli (kurgans) containing simple pit chambers.

The material culture of the Yamna culture was very similar to the Afanasevo culture. They lived primarily as nomads, with a chiefdom system and wheeled carts that allowed them to manage large herds.

They are also closely connected to Final Neolithic cultures, which later spread throughout Europe and Central Asia, especially the Corded Ware people and the Bell Beaker culture, as well as the peoples of the Sintashta, Andronovo, and Srubnaya cultures. Back migration from Corded Ware also contributed to Sintashta and Andronovo.

In these groups, several aspects of the Yamnaya culture are present. Genetic studies have also indicated that these populations derived large parts of their ancestry from the steppes.

The Yamna culture, “Pit [Grave] Culture”, is a late copper age/early Bronze Age culture of the Southern Bug/Dniester/Ural region (the Pontic steppe), dating to the 36th–23rd centuries BC. The name also appears in English as Pit Grave Culture or Ochre Grave Culture.

Characteristic for the culture are the inhumations in kurgans (tumuli) in pit graves with the dead body placed in a supine position with bent knees. The bodies were covered in ochre. Multiple graves have been found in these kurgans, often as later insertions. Significantly, animal grave offerings were made (cattle, sheep, goats and horse), a feature associated with Proto-Indo-Europeans (including Proto-Indo-Iranians).

The earliest remains in Eastern Europe of a wheeled cart were found in the “Storozhova mohyla” kurgan (Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, excavated by Trenozhkin A.I.) associated with the Yamna culture.

The Yamna culture is identified with the late Proto-Indo-Europeans (PIE) in the Kurgan hypothesis of Marija Gimbutas.

It is one candidate for the Urheimat (homeland) of the Proto-Indo-European language, along with the preceding Sredny Stog culture, now that archaeological evidence of the culture and its migrations has been closely tied to the evidence from linguistics and Andronovo aDNA.

Pavel Dolukhanov argues that the emergence of the Pit-Grave culture represents a social development of various local Bronze Age cultures, representing “an expression of social stratification and the emergence of chiefdom-type nomadic social structures”, which in turn intensified inter-group contacts between essentially heterogeneous social groups.

It is said to have originated in the middle Volga based Khvalynsk culture and the middle Dnieper based Sredny Stog culture. In its western range, it is succeeded by the Catacomb culture; in the east, by the Poltavka culture and the Srubna culture.

The Yamna culture was preceded by the Sredny Stog culture, Khvalynsk culture and Dnieper-Donets culture, while succeeded by the Catacomb culture and the Srubna culture.

Catacomb culture

The Catacomb culture (c. 2800–1700 BC) was a Bronze Age culture which flourished on the Pontic steppe occupying essentially what is present-day Ukraine. It is seen more as a term covering several smaller related archaeological cultures. Originating on the southern steppe as an outgrowth of the Yamnaya culture, the Catacomb culture came to cover a large area.

The Catacomb culture is named for its burials. These augmented the shaft grave of the Yamnaya culture with burial niche at its base. This is the so-called catacomb. Such graves have also been found in Mycenaean Greece and parts of Eastern Europe.

Influences from the west appears to have had a decisive role on the formation of the Catacomb culture. In addition to the Yamnaya culture, the Catacomb culture displays links with the earlier Sredny Stog culture, the Afanasievo culture and the Poltavka culture.

Influences of the Catacomb culture have been detected as far as Mycenaean Greece. It spawned the Multi-cordoned ware culture, and was eventually succeeded by the Srubnaya culture.

The Catacomb culture was Indo-European-speaking. It has sometimes been considered ancestral to Indo-Iranian or Thracian. More recently, scholars have suggested that the culture provided a common background for Greek, Armenian and Indo-Iranian.

The culture was the first to introduce corded pottery decorations into the steppes and shows a profuse use of the polished battle axe, providing a link to the West. Parallels with the Afanasevo culture, including provoked cranial deformations, provide a link to the East.

The Catacomb culture was preceded by the Yamna culture and succeeded by the western Corded Ware culture. The Catacomb culture in the Pontic steppe was succeeded by the Srubna culture from ca the 17th century BC.

The name Catacomb culture comes from its burial practices. These are similar to those of the Yamna culture, but with a hollowed-out space off the main shaft, creating the “catacomb”. Animal remains were incorporated into a small minority of graves.

In certain graves there was the distinctive practice of what amounts to modelling a clay mask over the deceased’s face, creating an obvious if not necessarily correct association to the famous gold funeral mask of Agamemnon (see also Tashtyk culture).

The economy was essentially stock-breeding, although traces of grain have been found. There seem to have been skilled specialists, particularly metal-workers.

The origin of the Catacomb Culture is disputed. Jan Lichardus enumerates three possibilities: a local development departing from the previous Yamna Culture only, a migration from Central Europe, or an oriental origin.

The culture is first to introduce corded pottery decorations into the steppes and shows a profuse use of the polished battle axe, providing a link to the West. Parallels with the Afanasevo culture, including provoked cranial deformations, provide a link to the East.

The linguistic composition of the Catacomb culture is unclear. Within the context of the Kurgan hypothesis expounded by Marija Gimbutas, an Indo-European component is hard to deny, particularly in the later stages. Placing the ancestors of the Greek, Armenian and Paleo-Balkan dialects here is tempting, as it would neatly explain certain shared features.

More recently, the Ukrainian archaeologist V. Kulbaka has argued that the Late Yamna cultures of ca. 3200–2800 BC, esp. the Budzhak, Starosilsk, and Novotitarovka groups, might represent the Greek-Armenian-”Aryan”(=Indo-Iranian) ancestors (Graeco-Aryan, Graeco-Armenian), and the Catacomb culture that of the “unified” (to ca. 2500 BC) and then “differentiated” Indo-Iranians.

Grigoryev’s (1998) version of the Armenian hypothesis connects Catacomb culture with Indo-Aryans, because catacomb burial ritual had roots in South-Western Turkmenistan from the early 4th millennium (Parkhai cemetery).

Human type

The Dnieper-Donets culture is situated in the area which in accordance with the Kurgan hypothesis has been suggested as the Proto-Indo-European homeland. Mallory includes this area within the limits of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. It has been suggested that the Dnieper-Donets people were Pre–Indo-European-speakers who were absorbed by Proto-Indo-Europeans expanding westwards from steppe-lands further east.

The Dnieper-Donets culture is clearly distinct from the Cucuteni–Trypillia culture. Their pottery is completely different from those made by the nearby Cucuteni–Trypillia culture. They almost certainly spoke a different language than the people of the Cucuteni–Trypillia culture.

A genetic study published in Nature in February 2018 included an analysis of 32 individuals from three Eneolithic cemeteries at Deriivka, Vilnyanka and Vovnigi, which are ascribed to the Dnieper-Donets culture. These individuals belonged exclusively to the paternal haplogroups R and I (mostly R1b and I2), and almost exclusively to the maternal haplogroup U (mostly U5, U4 and U2).

This suggests that the Dnieper-Donets people were “distinct, locally derived population” of mostly of Eastern Hunter-Gatherer (EHG) descent, with Western Hunter-Gatherer (WHG) admixture. The WHG admixture appears to have increased in the transition from the Meslothic to the Neolithic.

Unlike the Yamnaya culture, whose genetic cluster is known as Western Steppe Herder (WSH), no Caucasian Hunter-Gatherer (EHG) or Early European Farmer (EEF) ancestry has been detected in the Dnieper-Donets culture.

At the Vilnyanka cemetery, all the males belong to the paternal haplogroup I, which is common among WHGs. David W. Anthony suggests that this influx of WHG ancestry might be the result of EEFs pushing WHGs out of their territories to the east, where WHG males might have mated with EHG females.

Dnieper-Donets males and Yamnaya males carry the same paternal haplogroups (R1b and I2a), suggesting that the CHG and EEF admixture among the Yamnaya came through EHG and WHG males mixing with EEF and CHG females. This, according to Anthony, suggests that the Indo-European languages were initially spoken by EHGs living in Eastern Europe.

The areas of the upper Dniester in which the Dnieper-Donets culture was situated have mostly Baltic river names. Due to this, and the close relationship between the Dnieper-Donets culture and contemporary cultures of northeast Europe, the Dnieper-Donets culture have been identified with the later Balts.

The precise role of this culture and its language to the derivation of the Pontic-Caspian cultures, such as Sredny Stog and Yamnaya culture, is open to debate, though the display of recurrent traits points either to long-standing mutual contacts or underlying genetic relations. The physical remains recovered from graves of the Dnieper-Donets culture have been classified as “Proto-Europoid”.

Males averaged 172 cm in height, which is much taller than contemporary Neolithic populations. Its rugged physical traits are thought to have genetically influenced later Indo-European peoples. Physical anthropologists have pointed out similarities in the physical type of the Dnieper-Donets people with the Mesolithic peoples of Northern Europe.

The people of the Dnieper-Donets culture are predominantly characterized as late Cro-Magnons with large and more massive features than the gracile Mediterranean peoples of the Balkan Neolithic. The remains of the Mariupol culture appear to be Caucasoid and physically larger than their contemporaries.

Massive broad-faced proto-Europoid type is a trait of post-Mariupol cultures, the Sredniy Stog, as well as the Yamna culture on the left bank of Dnieper, the Donets and Don. The features of this type are somewhat moderated in the western part of the steppe. On the Volga and in the Caspian region there is a brachycephalic (short headed) type which there are no traces in the Ukraine.

The peoples of the neighboring Sredny Stog culture, which eventually succeeded the Dnieper-Donets culture, were of a more gracile appearance. Examination of physical remains of the Sredny Stog people has determined that they were Europoid.

A similar physical type prevails among the Yamnaya, who were tall and powerfully built. People of the neighboring Khvalynsk culture were less powerfully built. People of the preceding Dnieper-Donets culture were even more powerfully built than the Sredny Stog and Yamnaya.

A genetic study published in Nature in February 2018 included an analysis of a male buried at Alexandria, Ukraine ca. 4000 BC. This site is ascribed to the Sredny Stog culture. He was found to be carrying the paternal haplogroup R1a1a1 (R1a-Z93, probably one of its earliest known members) and the maternal haplogroup H2a1a. He carried about 80% Western Steppe Herder (WSH) ancestry and about 20% Early European Farmer (EEF) ancestry.

A genetic study published in Nature in February 2018 included an analysis of a male buried at Alexandria, Ukraine ca. 4000 BC. This site is ascribed to the Sredny Stog culture. He was found to be carrying the paternal haplogroup R1a1a1 (R1a-Z93), probably one of its earliest known members, and the maternal haplogroup H2a1a.

He carried about 80% Western Steppe Herder (WSH) ancestry and about 20% Early European Farmer (EEF) ancestry. EEFs were shorter than contemporary Western Steppe Herders (WSHs) of the Pontic-Caspian steppe.

The Sredny Stog male is the first steppe individual found to have been carrying EEF ancestry. As a carrier of the 13910 allelle, he is the earliest individual ever examined who has had a genetic adaption to lactase persistence. His R1a-Z93 paternal haplogroup is later found in the Sintashta culture and subsequent Indo-Iranians.

The WHG genetic cluster was a result of mixing between Eastern Hunter-Gatherers (EHGs) and Caucasian Hunter-Gatherers (CHGs). This mixing appears to have happened on the eastern Pontic–Caspian steppe around 5,000 BC.

The WSH ancestry found in the Sredny Stog culture is similar to that of the Khvalynsk culture, among whom there was no EEF admixture. Males of the Khvalynsk culture carried primarily the paternal haplogroup R1b, although a few samples of R1a, I2a2, Q1a and J has been detected.

The WHG genetic cluster was a result of mixing between Eastern Hunter-Gatherers (EHGs) and Caucasian Hunter-Gatherers (CHGs). This mixing appears to have happened on the eastern Pontic–Caspian steppe around 5,000 BC.

Succeeding Yamnaya males however, have been found to be have only carried R1b and I2. This is similar to the males of the Dnieper-Donets culture, who carried R and I only and were exclusively EHGs with Western Hunter-Gatherer (WHG) admixture.

The results suggest that the Yamnaya emerged through mixing between EHG and WHG males, and EEF and CHG females. This implies that the leading clans of the Yamnaya were of EHG and WHG origin. On this basis, it has been argued that the Indo-European languages were initially spoken by EHGs of Eastern Europe.

The culture ended at around 3500 BC, when the Yamna culture expanded westward replacing Sredny Stog, and coming into direct contact with the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture in the western Ukraine.

The Yamna culture population had long heads and narrow faces. Its population possessed distinct Europoid features, was tall, with massive skulls. The second component was the descendants of those buried in the Eneolithic cemetery of Khvalynsk. They are less robust.

Examination of physical remains of the Yamnaya people has determined that they were Europoid, tall, and massively built. Their cephalic index varies depending on the region, with brachycephaly being prevalent in its southern and eastern areas, and dolichocephaly being prevalent in its northern areas.

A similar physical type prevails among the Yamnaya, who were tall and powerfully built. People of the neighboring Khvalynsk culture were less powerfully built. People of the preceding Dnieper-Donets culture were even more powerfully built than the Sredny Stog and Yamnaya.

The later southward advance of the Srubnaya culture into the former territories of the Yamnaya is accompanied with increasing dolichocephaly among skulls of the southern steppe, probably through the merging of Srubnaya people with descendants of the Yamnaya among the Poltavka culture and Catacomb culture.

The dolichocephalic Europoid type prevalent among the Srubnaya had earlier been found among the Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture, Abashevo culture, Sintashta culture and Andronovo culture, which were themselves ultimately partially derived from Yamnaya.

The Yamnaya people were genetically tall (phenotypic height is determined by both genetics and environmental factors), overwhelmingly dark-eyed (brown), dark-haired and had a skin colour that was moderately light, though somewhat darker than that of the average modern European. Despite their pastoral lifestyle, there was little evidence of lactase persistence.

Continuity of the Dnieper–Donets culture

The Mikhaylovka culture (3600-3000 BCE), the Novodanilovka group (ca. 4400 BC to 3800 BC) and the Kemi Oba culture (ca. 3700—2200 BC), an archaeological culture at the northwest face of the Sea of Azov, the lower Bug and Dnieper Rivers and the Crimea, displays evidence of continuity from the Dnieper–Donets culture.

The Kemi Oba culture is contemporaneous and partly overlapping with the Catacomb culture. According to Mallory, this was a component of the larger Yamnaya horizon, while Anthony regards it to be a separate culture, which was replaced by a late Yamnaya variant after 2800 BCE.

The economy of the Kemi Oba culture was based on both stockbreeding and agriculture. It had its own distinctive pottery, which is suggested to be more refined than that of its neighbors. The inhumation practice was to lay the remains on its side, with the knees flexed, in pits, stone lined cists or timber-framed graves topped with a kurgan.

Of particular interest are carved stone stelae or menhirs that also show up in secondary use in Yamnaya culture burials. Metal objects were imported from the Maykop culture.

Strong links have been suggested with the adjacent/overlapping Lower Mikhaylovka group, a Copper Age archaeological culture which flourished on the Pontic steppe. Lower Mikhaylovka culture is named after an early Yamna site of the late copper age of the lower Dnieper River, noted for its fortifications. It is named after lower archaeological layer of the site near Mykhaylivka village of Kherson Oblast.

Mikhaylovka I (3600-3400 BCE) had connections to the west, and is related to the Kemi Oba culture (3700-2200 BCE) at the Bug-Dniepr area and the Crimea, and seems to have had connections to the Maykop culture (3700-3000 BCE).

Mikhaylovka II (3400-3000 BCE) had connections to the east, as reflected by its repin-style pottery. It is divided into a lower (3400-3300 BCE) and an upper level (3300-3000 BCE). It shows a shift from farming to cattle herding, typical for the Yamna horizon.

It is believed that the Afanasevo culture was descended from people who migrated c. 3700–3300 BCE across the Eurasian Steppe from the Repin culture (c. 3950–3300 BC) of the Don-Volga region (and possibly members of the neighbouring Yamnaya culture).

The Novodanilovka group, also called the Novodanilovka culture, was a Copper Age culture which flourished along the lower Dnieper and the steppes of Ukraine. In the Kurgan hypothesis, the Novodanilovka group is often presented as the archetypical warlike patriarchal society of the early Indo-Europeans.

It is primarily defined by its small cemeteries and individual burials. These burials are characterized as flexed supine burials with orientation to east or northeast. The burials are similar to those of the Sredny Stog culture, but the burials are more elaborate with chambers of stone coverings.

They are also distinguished by rich grave goods of flint, copper and stone weapons, and copper bracelets. It has been suggested that this is a reflection of an aristocratic element of the Sredny Stog culture, rather than a separate cultural group.


A climatic improvement is seen peaking in the mid–5th millennium BC, with mild summers and winters, less precipitation, and an increase in steppe grass-cover with more varied vegetation (Binney et al. 2017). These changes favoured the importance of a subsistence economy based on animal husbandry, which had spread into the Pontic–Caspian area only centuries earlier. This specialisation was coupled with fundamental innovations (Parzinger 2013):

·         Kurgan burials substituting flat graves.

·         Dead in the crouched position, substituting the previously standard supine position.

·         Rich grave goods revealing social stratification.

·         Animal husbandry including widespread horse imagery and likely horse domestication.

Early Khvalynsk (ca. 5300–3900 BC) probably began from an autochthonous group of the Middle Volga region—near the site that gives the culture its name—closely related to the previous Neolithic Volga–Ural groups (Samara and Orlovka), expanding rapidly into neighbouring regions. Changes during the second stage of sites showing continuity with Samara material culture, at the beginning of the 5th millennium, are marked by strong influences from the Khvalynsk culture, with pottery showing technological changes and more variety, as well as typical Khvalynsk features, such as clays containing silt, wicker elements in ornamentation, etc. Pottery also partly continues the previous Syezzhe tradition. (Vybornov et al. 2016).

The Khvalynsk culture started to settle in the south of the Volga valley, reaching about 4900 BC wormwood deserts to the north-west of the Caspian area, and the Mangyshlak Peninsula in the east of the Caspian area, witnessed by many finds of ceramics with comb decoration, where the Khvalynsk population partly assimilated the native inhabitants of the North Caspian culture in the Lower Volga. A part of the North Caspian culture probably migrated to the Saratov Trans-Volga region, where it was assimilated to the Orlovka culture (Kotova 2008).

The Khvalynsk culture expanded to the south and west along the Lower Danube into the north Caucasian region from ca. 4800 BC, with the Nalchik cemetery in the northern Caucasus steppe being synchronous with this early stage (Vybornov et al. 2018). At the same time, Khvalynsk expanded to the west into the Don–Kalmius interfluve, developing a significant area in the north Pontic region with the so-called Novodanilovka group, including synchronous findings reaching the lower Danube region and beyond with the so-called Suvorovo group (Kotova 2008).

The sudden expansion of Khvalynsk settlers from the Volga–Ural in all directions (Figure 11) marks the development of a Khvalynsk–Novodanilovka cultural-historical area, dominating over the steppes from the lower Danube to the Middle Volga, the Caucasus, and the Trans-Caspian area showing common funerary sacrifices of domesticated sheep, goats, and cattle, connected with an increase in the number and diversity of new types of body ornaments in graves, some made of exotic materials, including copper, and polished stone maces (Anthony 2016).


The Khvalynsk culture, genetically related to Samara, preserves traditions of the ritual, cultural meaning, the treatment of the horse imagery in funeral contexts, including altars, horse bones, and funerary rites. At the same time, it is in this precise culture that the image of the horse—included in the social symbolism, such as horse-head pommel-sceptres—acquires for the first time a special, maximum social significance. The appearance and subsequent widespread distribution of similar social symbols in the whole Khvalynsk–Novodanilovka cultural-historical area, through the expansion of Novodanilovka-type objects, could be considered as another qualitative leap in the social significance of the horse.

Figure 12. Left: Development of sceptres after Dergachev (2007), with more abstract (left) and more realistic (right) horse-head motif. Right: Restoration of sceptres: (a) Models for restoration – Late Mesolithic and Neolithic elk-head staffs from the east European forest zone (b) supposed appearance of Eneolithic sceptres on the hundle with the clutch. From Dergachev (2007).

Especially relevant is the position of stone-carved horse-head pommel-sceptres (Figure 12), whose almost synchronous appearance during the first half of the 5th millennium bc in Khvalynsk–Novodanilovka sites can be followed with certain precision into different subgroups, according to subsequent developments in their shape (Figure 13). Sceptres are an important cultural phenomenon, with strong symbolic functions as a divine object, used in times of peace, in times of war, and in a system of ritual power. The account of the divine and human genealogy of Agamemnon’s sceptre in the Iliad bears testimony to their likely increased relevance for earlier warrior-priest chiefs (Dergachev 2007):

 “Then among them lord Agamemnon uprose, bearing in his hands the sceptre which Hephaestus had wrought with toil. Hephaestus gave it to king Zeus, son of Cronos, and Zeus gave it to the messenger Argeïphontes; and Hermes, the lord, gave it to Pelops, driver of horses, and Pelops in turn gave it to Atreus, shepherd of the host; and Atreus at his death left it to Thyestes, rich in flocks, and Thyestes again left it to Agamemnon to bear, that so he might be lord of many isles and of all Argos.”[7]

The explosion of horse symbolism has been interpreted as a signal of the start of horse-riding technique in the eastern cultural area, with the horse becoming a necessary instrument for long-distance travel, for transport, for raids, and for war (as a means for quicker movements rather than their use for mounted war per se), facilitating thus the culture’s rapid expansion. While bone remains show a similar proportion in the contemporary early Sredni Stog groups of the north Pontic steppe and forest-steppe areas during the 5th millennium BC, supporting the relevance of the domesticated horse in their subsistence economy, horse remains are strictly limited to an economic context, without social or symbolic meaning (Dergachev 2007).

Clear archaeological evidence for the development of horseback riding is found in the early–to–mid–4th millennium BC in the Botai-Tersek culture of central Asia, in the expansion of Repin herders, in Maikop and Transcaucasian cultures, and in Armenia. Archaeology points thus a likely expansion of the technique from a single source at the turn of the 5th–4th millennium BC, which is compatible with an earlier, autolimited expansion of incompletely tamed horses (not adapted for many relevant tasks seen in later cultures) with Khvalynsk chieftains in the mid–5th millennium BC (see §V.7.2. Late Repin).

Horse palaeontological and archaeological data suggests that the Urals were a potential constraint for the dispersal of horses between Europe and north-central Asia, and that suitability for the species steadily improved in western and south-eastern Europe from ca. 6,000 to 3,000 years ago. The Caspian Sea was possibly the westernmost boundary of Asian horses, which probably became adapted to the new areas in the Pontic–Caspian steppes and to the west from the 5th millennium BC on (Leonardi, Boschin, et al. 2018).


The use of barrow burials or tumuli has been argued to appear as a local north Caucasian feature, with origin in the 5th millennium BC, and also in the southern Caucasus, with the Leilatepe culture, from where it spread north. Other barrows are later found up to north-west Iran. Although evidence is too scarce to select a precise origin, the early Khvalynsk–Novodanilovka burials, on the Pontic–Caspian steppes, are the first to feature rich, ochre-sprinkled graves under kurgan-like structures (Korenevskiy 2012).

The addition of the tradition of ochre staining (originally from the steppes) to the emerging proto-kurgans supports that these structures emerged with the contacts of steppe cultures with the Caucasus. The standard posture on the back with knees raised, with their heads to the north and east (Anthony 2007), characteristic of Khvalynsk-type burials, point to the expansion of the Khvalynsk–Novodanilovka cultural-historical area as the starting point of this tradition in the steppes.

All members of society are considered represented in the earliest Khvalynsk cemeteries, although there is a clear emerging trend during their expansion for elite male burials to predominate. Rich grave assemblages include stone clubs and axes, animal-head sceptres, long flint blades, and ornaments for clothing, many made of copper. These rare copper objects like rings and beads, most likely from western industries, are more common in elite male graves, as are animal sacrifices and red ochre (Murphy and Khokhlov 2016).

The emerging kurgan structures were probably not simple pits filled with earth. There was a belief that the funerary structure was the place where the buried moved to another world, and in that sense similar funerary structures reflect certain egalitarian ideas, so the evolution from collective necropolis to the rich grave assemblages reflect the meaning of prestige objects as symbols that emphasise social status, and thus an evolution to a kinship-based, elite-dominated organisation into small families, as well as a potential function in the transition to the afterlife (Korenevskiy 2012).

The new social elites identified themselves through grave goods and grave construction, marked the status with clothing (copper jewellery) and symbols of power (mace and sceptre). The existence of similar children’s graves supports the membership to social groups being acquired by birth. This common evolution in the whole Khvalynsk–Novodanilovka cultural-historical area supports the emergence of tightly structured elite social groups expanding from the east (Parzinger 2013).

Ceremonial skull-scraping of the parietal bone, consisting of one to seven gouges about 2–3 cm in length in the parietal bone surface, may appear mainly in mature adults (Khokhlov 2016), with some cases clearly associated with elite burials. Zoomorphic sceptres represented probably a ritual source of power for Khvalynsk chieftains, political and/or religious leaders, as evidenced by the unique zoomorphic carving found in Ekaterinovka (a riverine settlement) in the second half of the 5th millennium, resembling a toothed fish or reptile, rather than the most common horse-related motifs expanding with Novodanilovka–Suvorovo settlers. The finding of similar elk-head staffs in Mesolithic–Neolithic cultures of northern and eastern Europe and the Trans-Urals region may suggest an ancient cultural connection of this tradition through northern Eurasia.

Early kurgan-like or proto-kurgan constructions in the Pontic–Caspian steppes are found thus associated with the expansion of Khvalynsk–Novodanilovka chiefs, featuring similar constructions to mark elite graves: rooves made from separate slabs with cairns are known in the Dnieper and Volga regions (17% of burials in early Khvalynsk were superimposed with stone cairns or had a single stone marker); cists with cairns are known from the northern Donets and Azov areas; and a unique cromlech is found in the Dniester–Danube area, among Suvorovo graves. Apart from these stone constructions, in the Volga and northern Caucasus region sometimes natural hills or small earthen or wooden constructions are used as burial markers (Rassamakin 1999).

Khvalynsk economy

Stable isotopes in the bones of Khvalynsk individuals show that their diet depended to a large extent on fish (Schulting and Richards 2016), although domesticated animals also feature prominently in the Khvalynsk culture, accompanying thus a food-producing economy (Vybornov, Kosintsev, and Kulkova 2015).

Sheep and goats were sacrificed more than any other species in ochre-stained ritual deposits in Khvalynsk; cattle predominated on the lower Dnieper; and horse bones dominated in between. Given the data from the predominant diet, domesticated animals may have been reserved for their use as a ritual and feasting currency associated with the political competition between a new social rank of elites (Anthony 2016; Anthony and Brown 2011).

There is an evident causal relationship between the emergence of a warrior class of social leaders and the spread of cattle herds through widening grazing lands, and between their rapid westward spread and imagery evidencing the domestication of the horse (and its use as a riding mount). Deposits from Ukraine, the Caucasus or the Urals were not used at this moment, so metal imports came probably from Balkan and Carpathian mines, which supports a dense network of extensive trading links through the north Pontic steppes up to the Volga (Parzinger 2013).

The Khvalynsk expansion represents thus the start of the Eneolithic era, as the time of development of a prestigious economy that marked social elites ​​through different valuable objects, many of them obtained through exchange networks, reflecting the direct or indirect involvement of the owners. Among them were items requiring high skills or complex manufacturing techniques (different woollen tools, sceptres, stone bracelets); tools that occupy an important role in labour, war and industry (stone flat axes, arrowheads, knife-like plates, and chips of flint); iconic objects (bone plates from canine fang, pins, bone sticks with a hole); beads (from bone, stone, shell, and bead washers that could be collected in whole garlands, acquiring a special value); copper jewellery (beads, rings, bracelets) (Korenevskiy 2012).


Since the early 6th millennium BC objects and ideas flew in a single direction, from central (Linearbandkeramik) and south-eastern (Old European) cultures to the Pontic–Caspian steppe. This changed from the mid–5th millennium on, when movement is seen also from the steppe to the west, driven by the newly found human mobility (Heyd 2016).

The Suvorovo–Novodanilovka group appear in the north-west Pontic area, the Lower Danube, and Dobruja, reaching to the south the Upper Thracian Plain and northern Greece, and to the east the east and central Carpathian Basin, up to central Europe. They are recognised by their rich individual primary graves displaying ostentatious prestige goods, whose inventory included jewellery (shell necklace, copper goods, rarely gold), tools (flint and copper) and weaponry. The most conspicuous objects are the high technology flint inventory, with axes, long blades, and triangular silex spearheads sticking out (Heyd 2016).

Individuals were laid on their back, extended or crouched, with slightly bent knees on the side, and oval to square graves (Figure 14). Ochre staining of the entire grave is the norm, including whole ochre pieces. A short, still quite shallow mound can be seen over the grave, sometimes with circular stone structures either around the grave (as in Suvorovo) or around the mound. Zoomorphic (usually horse-head) sceptres were particularly common in the south, while in the north-west and west Pontic areas (and in the east Carpathian Basin) they represent mostly isolated finds, and comparable pieces are abstract stone sceptres and stone mace heads with knob decoration. The farthest south that these materials are found is Suvodol–Šuplevec, northern Macedonia, in the south-east Balkans (Heyd 2016). To the west, the farthest finds are in the Csongrád–Kettőshalom site, dated ca. 4370–4240 BC (Horváth et al. 2013).

The most recent radiocarbon dates show that these findings appear in south-east Europe from about 4600 BC—contemporaneous with the rich graves of the Necropolis from Varna I—to ca. 4000 BC. Steppe imports are found in Gumelnița, in the Lower Danube region, from about 4400 BC, pointing to an established trade network (Reingruber and Rassamakin 2016). A the end of the Early Eneolithic, the Varna necropolis ceases to function, and the Suvorovo elites disappear, although Cernavodă I, continues to show burials similar to north Pontic findings ca. 4000–3750 BC (Heyd 2016).

While the Suvorovo expansion marked the beginning of long-distance exchange of prestige goods with the steppe, and they did not represent a massive migration, the “infiltration” of settlers was enough to cause the abandonment of settlements by the Gumelniţa population of the left bank of the Danube when the steppe tribes appeared. There is little evidence of armed conflict, so it is possible that the crisis of local agricultural economy may have caused this abandonment. There may have been a gradual, peaceful process of assimilation of the Suvorovo settlers by the local Gumelniţa population, favoured by the crisis of the local agricultural economy, which is seen by many scholars as the process by which the Cernavodă I culture came into existence (Heyd 2016).

These kurgan findings show funerary rites and technology, but there are no associated settlements. They appear in parallel to complex organised settlements like those of Cucuteni–Trypillia, Bolgrad–Aldeni, Varna, Kodžadermen–Gumelniţa–Karanovo VI and related cultures, with which they participate in economic exchange (Suppl. Fig. 7). Based on the number of graves among these groups, we can say that the size of the infiltration must have been rather small (Heyd 2016).


It was probably the arrival of Suvorovo migrants what triggered the idea of lavish grave furniture and the display of wealth, prestige, power, and social position in the graves of Copper Age sedentary farming communities of south-eastern Europe. The Varna I cemetery is the clearest representative of the expansion of the new mentality to the Balkans, and has been recently dated more exactly to ca. 4590–4340 BC (Krauß et al. 2017).

Characteristic ceramics are based on features known from the late Chalcolithic ceramic complexes in Durankulak (tell and necropolis), Devnia, the Varna lake settlements and necropolis. Fine ceramic is thin-walled, with a light grey turning into black, burnished, smoothed surface, with pots having upper cylindrical and rounded parts or being bi-conical forms with vertical handles. The composite S-profile and strongly outward curved mouth rim were one of the most typical elements of the complex, together with ring-like bottoms, and the most emblematic ornamentation was the “Ezerovo” type, in which the motif’s background was engraved and encrusted, with the ornament itself remaining embossed, as well as the flutted decoration (Petrova 2016).

While the richness displayed by the Varna cemetery and its accumulation of wealth are unique in south-eastern Europe, similar accumulations of material wealth are encountered in isolated finds all over the Balkans and the Carpathian Basin, reaching Greece and Anatolia.  Metallurgy requires material and skills which are not readily available, which means that elites kept control of them by limiting people’s ability to access and produce metals themselves. In fact, except for the distinct material culture, the rich Varna burials and the Novodanilovka burials are essentially equivalent (Heyd and Walker 2004).

Graves and hoards demonstrate thus sharp inequality over wide parts of south-east Europe in the 5th and 4th millennium BC, showing thus social stratification, also displayed in the form of house sizes and pottery inventories (in quantity and quality) within settlements. There is thus a pattern of robust social institutions and enhanced complexity, of lineages and powerful chieftains, of networks and bonds persistent in time and space, reflected in Varna, in mega-villages of middle and late Trypillia, and in many other sites in south-eastern Europe (Heyd and Walker 2004).


Three samples dated after ca. 4700 BC have been analysed from the Khvalynsk cemetery, described as hosting typically southern and northern individuals. One high-status burial, buried supine with raised knees and an assemblage of 293 copper artefacts (this grave alone accounting for ca. 80% of copper objects in the Khvalynsk cemetery) represents thus a high-status individual, member of an elite group of patrilineally-related families that was probably successful during the Indo-Anatolian expansion, reported as of haplogroup R1b1-L754[8] and mtDNA H2a1, unique in the region (Mathieson et al. 2015).

The individual of haplogroup R1a1-M459 (xR1a1a-M198), mtDNA U5a1i, also buried on his back with raised knees, probably represents a commoner, remnant of a local population, showing more EHG-like ancestry. An old male of Q1a-F903 lineage (probably Q1a2-M25, see above §ii.5. Caucasus hunter-gatherers), mtDNA U4, and higher CHG/ANE component related to steppe eneolithic samples, who died from blows to his skull, suggests that the origin of this extra ancestral component found in Khvalynsk (and much elevated later in sampled Yamna) individuals comes from the admixture of Samara hunter-gatherer-like elites from the Don–Volga–Ural region with northern Caucasian or northern Caspian steppe populations, or both, during their expansion.

Two individuals from Progress in the Northern Caucasus Piedmont (dated ca. 4600 BC and 4150 BC), of haplogroup R1b1a2-V1636+, and one from Vonyuchka (ca. 4300 BC) show elevated ANE ancestry[9], which confirms the presence of this component in regions of the northern Caucasus with early pit grave burials—related to the Don–Caspian steppes—and support its expansion in the Don–Volga–Ural region linked to steppe elites, likely through exogamy of expanding Khvalynsk settlers (Suppl. Graph. 4). Both Eneolithic Samara and north Caucasus steppe populations analysed to date show no gene flow from Anatolian farmers, unlike contemporary samples from the north Pontic region and later samples from the Yamna culture (Wang et al. 2019).

The finding of R1a1b-YP1272+ as a Maikop outlier in the same kurgan in the late 4th millennium (see below §v.2. Early Caucasians), and of R1b1a2-V1636+ among Yamna individuals of the Caucasus in the early 3rd millennium BC (see below vi.1. Disintegrating Indo-Europeans) further supports the possible relevance of these lineages in the Indo-Anatolian expansions associated with Khvalynsk, or else their widespread presence among Pontic–Caspian steppe populations before the Khvalynsk expansion.

Based on continuity of ancestral components in later samples from Afanasevo, the early Khvalynsk community eventually stabilised (probably after ca. 4500 BC) in its admixture, remaining close to the analysed samples from the north Caucasian steppes, deriving more than 60% of ancestry from EHG, and the remainder from a CHG-related basal ancestry (Wang et al. 2019), in what can be taken a model of the so-called “Steppe ancestry” in later samples. This homogenisation of the Don–Volga–Ural, Kuban, and north Pontic areas suggests continued exogamy of Khvalynsk clans dominated by elite males with other related groups from the steppe.

Other analysed elite Khvalynsk individuals (ca. 4250–4000 BC), from the riverine Ekaterinovka settlement, whose material culture is interpreted as chronologically intermediate between late Samara and early Ivanovska–Khvalynsk materials (Korolev, Kochkina, and Stashenkov 2019), have been reported by Khokhlov (2018) as within the R1b1a1b-M269+ tree (formed ca. 11300 BC, TMRCA ca. 4400 BC), which confirms the continuous presence of R1b1a1-P297 subclades in the region. The estimated split and successful spread of R1b1a1b1-L23 (formed ca. 4300 BC, TMRCA ca. 4200 BC), subclade of R1b1a1b-M269, further supports its association with patrilineally-related clans that expanded with early Khvalynsk around the mid–5th millennium BC.

The finding of a rare R1b1a1b-M269 subclade R1b1a1b2-PF7562 (formed ca. 4400 BC, TMRCA ca. 3400 BC) in the Balkans, Central Europe, Anatolia, and the Caucasus (Myres et al. 2011; Herrera et al. 2012) may support their association with the early spread of Indo-Anatolian speakers, although their late TMRCA points to a recent expansion linked to the spread of Yamna migrants (see below §vi.1. Disintegrating Indo-Europeans).

The earlier, Epipalaeolithic–Early Mesolithic origin of haplogroups R1b1a2-V1636, R1a1b-YP1272, and R1b1a1b-M269 compared to their late estimated successful expansion around the mid–5th millennium BC supports their emergence among local populations of diverse haplogroups around this time of population movements in the region. Since R1b1a1-P297 lineages were probably the latest to successfully spread into the Volga–Ural area, the presence of other lineages among Khvalynsk males suggests the resurgence of indigenous haplogroups, probably prevalent among certain local Pontic–Caspian groups before the expansion of the North-Eastern Technocomplex and hunter-gatherer pottery.

Steppe ancestry has been found in one female child from the Varna I cemetery (ca. 4711–4450 BC), from the earliest burials of the first phase, richly furnished; in a young male from Smyadovo (ca. 4550–4450 BC), of a Balkan Copper Age culture (Mathieson et al. 2018), of hg. R-M207[10]; and in a Greece Neolithic sample, probably also from the middle to late 5th millennium BC (Wang et al. 2018). All these samples prove the expansion of Suvorovo settlers to the south into the southern Danube regions and beyond, up to northern Greece (Suppl. Graph. 5). However, the presence of few individuals with Steppe ancestry among two dozen Copper Age Balkan samples from the region (ca. 5000–4000 BC) further supports the nature of the Suvorovo expansion as a rapid infiltration of few steppe chieftains among local east Balkan populations.

The presence of R1b1-L754 samples in the north Pontic region and in the Balkans during the 5th millennium does not prove they belong to the known lineages associated with Khvalynsk, and the presence of confirmed R1b1b-V88 subclades in both regions (Mathieson et al. 2018) frustrates their interpretation as belonging to any specific subclade. On the other hand, the presence of I2a1b1a2a2-Y5606 in Neolithic samples from the north Pontic area, and of I2a1b1a2a2a-L699 lineages expanding with Yamna (see §vii.5. Palaeo-Balkan peoples), suggests that some of these lineages were also integrated in the Khvalynsk society, and may appear associated with Suvorovo–Novodanilovka settlers. Other Pontic–Caspian steppe lineages, like R1a1-M459 or Q1a-F903, could have also accompanied these early Indo-European elites, before the further Y-chromosome bottlenecks seen in Repin and early Yamna.


The Copper Age began in Bulgaria ca. 5200–5000 BC, but Old European copper-trade network included the Pontic–Caspian steppe groups only after ca. 4600 BC. In the period ca. 4800–4000 BC, Trypillia ceramic imports appear at the Neolithic Dnieper sites. In the forest-steppe region, they occur on a number of sites belonging to the Kyiv–Cherkassy variant of the Dnieper–Donets community, and later imports reach into the forest zone, into the territory of the Pit–Comb Ware culture. Prestige objects begin to appear at this time on the north Pontic region, too, marking the beginning of the prestige exchange (Rassamakin 1999).

There is no gap between the Neolithic cemeteries of Nikolskoe, Lysogorskoe or Mariupol and the emergence of the first Sredni Stog burials, which mark the advent of the Eneolithic. In fact, certain prestige objects appear in Neolithic cemeteries before their demise, and flint workshops on the Donets—which become quite relevant during the beginning of prestige exchange in the region—can be traced back to the late Neolithic (Mariupol) industry (Rassamakin 1999).

The expansion of Khvalynsk–Novodanilovka connected Early Eneolithic sites, from the Lower Danube (Suvorovo, Cernavodă I) to the Kuban region, bordering on the pre-Caucasus region (with pre-Maikop Trans-Kuban culture) to the steppe and forest-steppe Volga region of the Khvalynsk culture. The expansion of Suvorovo to the Lower Danube, with its contact with rich local agricultural settlements, sets into motion a long-distance prestige exchange system, and the tradition of rich burial assemblages that expands through cultures of the north-west and north Pontic region (Rassamakin 1999).

The economy of the region included sheep–goat, cattle, and horse bones, and it seems that sedentarism was the rule, with hunting playing a significant part in the diet. Trade in this period was based around copper and copper artefacts, from two main extraction regions: the Middle Danube area and Thrace. Finds from the steppe up to Khvalynsk show that Novodanilovka was associated not only with the distribution of the first copper artefacts in the steppe, but also with the establishment of an independent metalworking focus in the Black Sea region, which used Thracian–Lower Danubian and Middle Danubian ore, as well as Trypillian, Varna, and Gumelniţa technology (Rassamakin 1999).

The lack of complex copperworking in early Khvalynsk suggests that all the copper finds in the Volga and pre-Caucasus region were imports from the west, and rich copper assemblages in the Dnieper and Donets regions seem to occur at regular intervals or suitable stopping places along the main route (Figure 15), which—together with the flint processing remains—points to north Pontic groups as intermediaries (Rassamakin 1999).

Metal hoards of the initial Chalcolithic (ca. 4800–4200 BC) coexist with the first great wave of the Alpine jadeites. The Danubian axe and adze hoards phenomenon flourishes in central Europe, covering the area between the Meuse and the Vistula rivers. By 4600/4500 BC, a ‘Europe of hoards’ extends from Brittany to the Carpathian Mountains, in non-metalworking Neolithic societies. Isolated finds of giant (‘elite’) mounds, the Carnac mounds, built for a single individual, are found in this copperless western Europe at the same time as those in Varna I. A vast distribution network of Alpine axeheads and its corresponding hoard phenomenon in the west is thus comparable to the contemporaneous copper hammer-axe horizon in the initial east European Chalcolithic (Jeunesse 2017).

Late LBK groups, including the Lengyel, Tiszapolgàr and Bodrogkeresztúr cultures, as well as contemporaneous cultures of northern and western France, like the Cerny culture of long barrows (ca. 4800–4300 BC), show some burials with stereotypical grave goods (weapons for men, ornaments for women) which stand out from other burials, showing thus the elite status of certain individuals (usually males), although without much difference with other graves (Jeunesse 2017).

Early Sredni Stog

The Bug–Dniester culture follows a division being proposed between an aceramic phase dated to ca. 5500–4900 BC and a ceramic phase ca. 4900–4400 BC, with apparent similarities in fabric, form, and decoration of pottery with the parallel developments in the Dnieper–Donets culture. This change marks the transition from Mesolithic hunter-gatherer societies to Neolithic ones, featuring domesticated animals and arable agriculture (wheat and barley, as well as millet, oats, vetch and rye) to differing degrees (Telegin et al. 2015).

The early Sredni Stog culture is characterised by a distinctive incised line and dot decoration, that spans from the Lower Don in the east to the Cucuteni–Trypillia settlements. Similar pottery decoration connected these cultures to earlier north Pontic Neolithic decorative features. Typical assemblages of these sites include typologically distinctive flint and stone artefacts, such as long knife-like blades, triangular flint spears and arrowheads, and flat axe-adzes, as well as distinctive perforated antler artefacts (Rassamakin 1999).

Early Sredni Stog settlements in the north Pontic area include the earliest burials of Stril’cha Skelya, Oleksandriia on the Oskol (a tributary of the Donets), Aleksandrovsk on the Donets, Igren VIIII, Razdolnoe on the Kalmius, as well as Vasylivka, Deriïvka 2 on the Dnieper, the island of Vinogradny, and Sredni Stog II; possibly some burials of the Lower Don, a border with the eastern region, may have part of the culture, too. Contacts with neighbouring steppe cultures are evident in imported Sredni Stog materials in the Khvalynsk settlement of Kara-Khuduk in the Caspian region, and in pre-Maikop Svobodnoe in the Kuban region (Rassamakin 1999; Manzura 2005).

Chronologically, the culture corresponds to the Cucuteni–Trypillia A3–4 and B1 agricultural settlements (ca. 4800–4000 BC), which show the same type of pottery in terms of technique and decoration, also found in Gumelniţa A2 (ca. 4500–3950 BC). The first copper and gold objects in the north Pontic region are associated with this period. Flint extraction and flint-working loci including mines appear in the Donets zone, the products of which correspond to artefacts from prestige burial assemblages. Oleksandriia was one such flint-processing locus, where a large quantity of both finished projectile tips, axes, long blades, semi-finished products, and also production waste was found (Rassamakin 1999; Manzura 2005).

Early contacts of north Pontic populations with the Hamangia culture from the Dobruja region (ca. 5250–4500 BC) is seen in imports including adornments from copper, cornelian, marine shells and pots in steppe sites, and plates from bone and nacre, pendants from teeth of red deer in Hamangia sites. The Hamangia influence was especially important in the burial rites of the steppe population, and may have caused the use of stone in graves and above them, pits with alcove, and new adornments of burial clothes. The strongest impact is seen to the north of the Sea of Azov in the early Sredni Stog culture, with the adoption of the new religious element potentially connected with the formation of the centre of steppe metal working (Kotova 2016).


The Cucuteni–Trypillia agrarian culture sites show complicated rules and networks of social organisation at different levels, which may be reconstructed as follows (Müller et al. 2015):

·         the household level shows open communication between neighbours and the whole settlement, linking together neighbouring households but not separating them from others (peaceful neighbourhood principle);

·         specialisation between households at an economic level in respect to their integration in processing primary (e.g. cereal) and secondary (e.g. weaving) products, with smaller houses showing more primary activity, and larger houses showing fewer activities of primary subsistence production;

·         household clusters of ca. 5 houses link households spatially (house-ring principle), potentially based on generational contracts / lineages;

·         the economic and political linkage of households to quarters, represented by mega-structures as the focal point and by supra-household economic specialisations (mega-structure principle);

·         the overall settlement, which needs a political institution to direct the spatial planning of the site and combined economic activities (mega-site principle).

During the 5th millennium, a strong, long-lasting, east–west orientated exchange network can be observed in the north Pontic area between the Cucuteni–Trypillian culture in the forest-steppe and north Pontic groups of the coastal steppe, including the site at Deriïvka (Reingruber and Rassamakin 2016). These close interactions were also maintained between the north Pontic and Khvalynsk populations, and it seems to have been driven by an interest in metal objects. In fact, the Khvalynsk centre of metalworking was formed under western influences, among which the Early Trypillian centre dominated (Kotova 2008)

The exchange systems in the north Pontic area during the Eneolithic included intercommunal exchange within likely related ethnolinguistic groups (such as the Sredni Stog internal exchange of natural resources, like flint materials);  exchange with the nearest neighbours (such as prestigious exchange between Sredni Stog and the Trypillian, Kyiv–Cherkassy, Donets and Middle Don cultures, as well as northern Caucasus and Crimea); and long distance exchange, made far from friendly villages, probably created under the Khvalynsk–Novodanilovka network (Kotova 2008).

The revolution of herding, travel, and raiding—and thus the change in the steppe—had come with horseback riding, appearing ca. 4800 BC in early Khvalynsk, and spreading south- and eastward with Suvorovo–Novodanilovka elites. They came from the eastern steppe, and they were probably involved in raiding and trading with the north and west Pontic areas during the Trypillian B1 period, before and during the collapse of Old Europe (Anthony 2007).

At the end of this period, the system of interrelationships disappears: there are no late Sredni Stog pottery in Cucuteni–Trypillia; the pottery changes; there is no evidence for the production and distribution of flint artefacts of the old type; and new types of arrow- and spearheads with distinctive notched bases substitute the old projectile points in the region (Rassamakin 1999).

Forest Zone

The first pottery appeared around the ancient Lake Saimaa basin ca. 5100 BC, followed by the Early Asbestos Ware (EAW) culture ca. 4700 BC, which used asbestos as a tempering material. This culture was the prevailing type of archaeological assemblage for several hundred years, but declined and disappeared around the early 4th millennium BC.

In mixed forest regions of the central Russian lowland plain to the Volga area and the Kama valley, Mesolithic–Neolithic hunter-gatherer groups like Lyalovo (ca. 5000–3650 BC) and Volosovo (ca. 3650–2300 BC) show late pricked and comb–stamped ceramic. The characteristic settlement shows partially sunken earth-houses or dugouts (poluzemlyanki), and vessels are simply formed, with a round or pointed base and imprint-decorated outer surfaces. Tools include harpoons made of flint, bone, and horn. Copper objects are rare findings, but bone or stone animal figures are typical and associated with forest fauna, such as bears, fish, beavers, etc. (Parzinger 2013).

In the southern area, near the north Pontic forest zone up to the Don River, this stage of Rudnyaya culture shows continuity in relation to the previous Late Neolithic period, and cultural interaction is observed with the eastern Baltic area and through the Western Dvina (Mazurkevich et al. 2009).

Early Uralians

Two individuals of the 5th millennium BC, presumably from early Sredni Stog, show continuity with ancestry similar to the previous samples of the north Pontic area: one from Deriïvka (ca. 4630 BC), and one from Vovnihy (ca. 4430 BC) of hg. I2a1b1a2-CTS10057 (Mathieson et al. 2018). Another sample from Deriïvka (ca. 4870 BC) is a clear outlier, with fully Anatolian farmer-like ancestry—clustering closely with Balkan Neolithic and Chalcolithic samples—but shows haplogroup I2a1b1-M223, and thus probably continuity of the male population.

In the Balkans, Copper Age populations contain significantly more hunter-gatherer-related ancestry, contemporary with the ‘resurgence’ of hunter-gatherer ancestry in central Europe and Iberia, and consistent with changes in funerary rites ca. 4500 BC to extended supine burial, in contrast to the Early Neolithic tradition of flexed burials. An important population replacement is supported by the presence of mtDNA haplogroups H, HV, W, K, and T in twenty-eight Trypillian samples from the Verteba Cave, contrasting with typical pre-Eneolithic lineages (Wakabayashi et al. 2017). Trypillian samples of the Middle Eneolithic (see §v.6. Late Uralians) show mostly Anatolian-related ancestry (ca. 80%) with contribution of hunter-gatherer ancestry (ca. 20%) intermediate between WHG and EHG, consistent with the local population (Mathieson et al. 2018).

Based on the lack of individuals of R1a1a-M198 lineages during the 6th and 5th millennium BC—the most likely Early Uralic speakers—in the sampled populations from the Pontic–Caspian area, and their presence there and among Baltic hunter-gatherers during the Mesolithic, it is possible that communities of this lineage were at this time mainly part of the forest or forest-steppe regions from the Middle and Upper Dnieper basin, and spread to the south (“resurging” in the area) only after the Khvalynsk–Novodanilovka expansion.

This wide distribution of haplogroup R1a1-M459 in the eastern European forests is supported by an individual from Yuzhnyy Oleni Ostrov (ca. 6300 BC), of hg. R1a1-M459, reported as both outside and (tentatively) within the R1a1a-M198 tree (Haak et al. 2015); the individual from Khvalynsk (ca. 4600 BC), of hg. R1a1-M459 (xR1a1a1-M417), probably R1a1b-YP1272, like a later Maykop sample from the Northern Caucasus Piedmont (ca. 3230 BC); an individual from Serteya VIII (ca. 4000 BC), of hg. R1a-M420 (Chekunova et al. 2014); and a sample from Kudruküla, Estonia (ca. 3000 BC), of hg. R1a1b-YP1272 (Saag et al. 2017). Contacts between the Upper Dnieper–Upper Don forest cultures and those of the forest-steppe continued during the Neolithic (Mazurkevich et al. 2009), which justifies their eventual infiltration down the Dnieper during the so-called steppe ‘hiatus’.

Anatolia and the Levant

There is no perceptible break in cultural continuity between the beginning and the end of the Anatolian Chalcolithic. However, certain gaps and discontinuities observed in many regions and periods, usually attributed to lack of adequate research, coupled with relevant changes in local cultures, point to a shift of the previous east–west influence to (at least partially) a west–east direction of innovations in certain Anatolian sites (Schoop 2011).

In general, this period of the 6th millennium shows thus the existence of wide communication systems, with continuity of previous traditions but with the introduction of foreign decoration techniques. Shortly before 5500 BC, a number of changes can already be seen in the Fikirtepe groups around the Bosporus (mainly settled on its eastern part), which point to a connection with the Vinča culture in the Southern Balkan region. In the Lake District, ‘vinčoid’ pottery is observed postdating the Fikirtepe tradition: it belongs to the dark-faced monochrome group, but there is some decoration with motifs in the stab-and-drag technique. Similar material is found in neighbouring regions (Schoop 2011).

During the 5th millennium, in the Middle Chalcolithic, a period of significant cultural development emerges. Near the western coast, Ubaid influence is noticed in urban plans and in pottery typical of the Halaf/Ubaid transitional period. In the Cappadocian margin of the Anatolian Plateau, which showed monochrome pottery decorated with different techniques in the Early Chalcolithic, the site of Gelvery-Güzelyurt shows pottery with swirling designs, executed in a stab-and-drag technique, which represents Balkan influences in the 4th millennium BC (Schoop 2011).

To the north, Late Chalcolithic İkiztepe (ca. 4500–4000) shows striking parallels with early to middle 4th millennium BC assemblages from the southern Balkans. This culture shows increasingly strong typological connections with materials further inland. While pottery traits point to continuity of traditions, notable innovations in shapes and decoration point to a koiné that encompasses most of Anatolia, the northern Aegean, and the southern Balkans. This period, since the early 5th millennium BC, coincides with the evidence of the production and consumption of metals, either simple metal artefacts (flat axes, pins, awls) or as crucibles or slag (Schoop 2011).

In south-east Anatolia, the Halafian ‘heartland’ developed since the 6th millennium BC, from its previous small or very small communities to large settlements which represented regional centres in a two- or three-tiered settlement hierarchies, with sedentary farming as the main subsistence economy, although cattle maintained its relevance for this originally semi-nomadic culture based on pastoral herding (Özbal 2011).

Close contacts and interaction between Halaf and Ubaid from Southern Mesopotamia had already been ongoing for a millennium, and possibly a crisis caused by its demographic and geographical expansion led the culture to a different organisation system. From about 4700 BC, though, Ubaid influence is increased in northern Mesopotamia, across a broad east–west arc (Özbal 2011). Southern Mesopotamian communities seem to have moved northwards, given the sudden social and cultural change in certain sites, first in the northern border, then in the Upper Euphrates.

A transformation began which eventually led to the disappearance of the way of life of the Halaf communities: new material culture, with new types of domestic architecture, village arrangements, public buildings, pottery, and other daily life objects; new economy, with less varied and more agriculturally-orientated production system; and a new social structure with sedentary population, a society that ceased to be egalitarian, family and not clan as the basic social unit, and emerging elites. The hybridisation of the two cultures produced innovations that spread in a southern direction, too (Frangipane 2015).

Farther south, the Levant Late Chalcolithic shows burial customs, artefacts and motifs with an origin in earlier Neolithic traditions in Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia. Characteristic of this culture are the secondary burials in ossuaries with iconographic and geometric designs. Artistic expressions have been related to northern regions related to finds, ideas, and later religious concepts, such as the gods Inanna and Dumuzu. The knowledge and resources required to produce metallurgical artefacts in the Levant have also been hypothesised to come from the north (Harney et al. 2018).

Caucasus and Mesopotamia

The Chalcolithic in the Caucasus begins with foreign contacts from eastern Anatolia and Mesopotamia through the Taurus Mountains, giving rise to a new social and economic network ranging from the south-eastern Caucasus to the Kuban region in the steppe. The Maikop culture is thus the dominant northern Caucasian tradition, known from its extremely wealthy tomb assemblages, and probably born out of an indigenous group with distant economic connections to the south. The pre-Maikop phase appears in sites like Nal’chik and Meshoko in the late 5th and early 4th millennium BC (Sagona 2017).

Characteristic features of the Maikop culture include the adoption of barrow burials, shifting settlements on elevated positions—on foothills overlooking a river valley, but avoiding rugged highlands—with short occupations, abundance of metalwork, and widespread connections with the Near East and Europe. The greatest concentration of settlements occurs in the north-west, around the Kuban River system. The eastern half of the northern Caucasus, judging by the hundreds of Pit-Grave burials, belonged to the steppe cultures. The spread of the Pit-Grave building tradition in pre-Maikop is likely related to the expansion of Khvalynsk settlers into the neighbouring region (see §IV.2.3. Kurgans), but the southern burials—including small, mud-brick burial chambers, possibly reflecting an idealised house—have also been linked to central Asian and northern Iranian influence, which would have been added to the exotic imports of turquoise, silver, gold, carnelian, lapis lazuli, and cotton (Sagona 2017).

The southern Caucasus Chalcolithic groups are distinguished from Neolithic cultures by a more flexible lifestyle, reflected in varying modes of occupation (from permanent villages to seasonal camps, from open plains to caves); a capacity to benefit from resources across a wide range of environmental zones, including at higher altitudes; diverse subsistence strategies, incorporating wine-making; external networks, based on a flow of commodities; and advancement of metallurgy (Sagona 2017).

The Chaff-Faced Ware horizon forms part of a tradition that reached from the north Syrian and Mesopotamian plains through the middle part of the Araxes Valley and Azerbaijan to north-western Iran, known in the Fertile Crescent as Amuq F. It is found in the first half of the 4th millennium, with Azerbaijan showing slightly earlier dates. This is a homogeneous culture that reflects standardisation and technological simplification. In the later periods of the culture (as well as in north-west Iran), the influence of the Ubaid tradition of Upper Mesopotamia can be seen in ornamentation (Sagona 2017).

Connections with the Neolithic, evident in the earlier period with circular dwellings furnished with a central hearth, disappear later on (after ca. 4300 BC) as small, multi-roomed rectangular structures appear, with an evolving social structure, heavy exploitation of tree fruits, and more complex wine production industry. Single or multiple pit–graves with barrow burials are the standard, with the deceased in a flexed position with no preference as to side, showing the start of the ‘sacrificial’ metals in assemblages, possibly to strengthen the kinship-related social status (Sagona 2017).

The Sioni horizon is a local, imprecisely defined culture based on ceramics found in south-eastern Caucasus and on the Iranian side of the middle Araxes Valley, as well as in easternmost Anatolia. Its early phase is dated ca. 4800–4000 BC, and its late stage ca. 4000–3200 BC. Sites are characterised by flat settlements with variable building tradition. It probably emerged as local communities moved away from the alluvial plain into the foothills, as they were able to exploit a wider range of resources and pastures. Pottery has relatively few forms and a limited range of ornamentation, and their lithic technology is difficult to reconstruct (Sagona 2017).

Late Middle Easterners

Chalcolithic peoples from Hajji Firuz in north-western Iran (ca. 6000–5700 BC) and from Seh Gabi in eastern Iran (ca. 4800–3800 BC) can be modelled as a mixture of western Iran Neolithic with significant contributions from a CHG-like population (ca. 63%) and the Levant (ca. 20%), becoming thus more ‘western’, consistent with their shift in the PCA. In Anatolia, the low genetic diversity of early Middle Eastern farmers during the early Neolithic was broken by a wave of ‘eastern’ ancestry from Iran Chalcolithic (ca. 33%), which eventually reached south-eastern Europe before at least ca. 3800 BC. These migrants brought also J-M304 lineages—typical of Caucasus and eastern Iranian populations—to the late Neolithic central and western Anatolia (Lazaridis et al. 2016; Kilinc et al. 2016).

This ‘eastern’ ancestry may have been caused by interactions between central Anatolia and the Fertile Crescent in the late Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (Özdoğan 2008), a migration related to other interregional exchanges, or admixture among local populations. The Tepecik-Çiftlik site’s presumed role as an obsidian hub, and its cultural links with the Levant, might have started already before the Pottery Neolithic (Kilinc et al. 2016).

Although traditionally associated with an east–west movement of peoples, it could well represent the opposite direction, thus including expanding Anatolian-speaking peoples through northern Anatolia, from the west to the central part. Later samples from Bronze Age south-western Anatolia (ca. 2800–1800 BC) show this ‘eastern’ contribution of CHG-related ancestry, but lacking steppe-related EHG and WHG ancestry (Lazaridis et al. 2016).

The Chalcolithic population from Areni in modern Armenia (ca. 4350–3500 BC) also shows similar components to neighbouring Anatolian and Iranian Chalcolithic samples, but with a different distribution: Anatolia Neolithic (ca. 52%), Iran Neolithic (ca. 30%) and EHG (c. 18%). This, coupled with the different haplogroup found, L1a1-M27 (formed ca. 15000 BC, TMRCA ca. 6100 BC), points to a different population in the southern Caucasus Piedmont (Lazaridis et al. 2016). The appearance of mtDNA hg. H2a1 and U4a (more typical of the Pontic–Caspian steppes) among these samples, as well as their position closer to steppe populations, speaks in favour of female exogamy.

Before the emergence of the classical Maikop culture, the three sampled Caucasus Eneolithic individuals of Darkveti-Meshoko from Unakozovskaya, in the north-west Caucasus Piedmont (ca. 4600–4300 BC), present a genetic profile similar to Iranian Chalcolithic samples, with predominant haplogroup J2a-M410, possibly both J2a1a1a2b2a3b1a-Y11200 (formed ca. 5900 BC, TMRCA ca. 5800 BC). This increased assimilation of Chalcolithic individuals from Iran, Anatolia, and Armenia is in accordance with the Neolithisation of the Caucasus, which started in the floodplains of the great rivers of the southern Caucasus in the 6th millennium BC, from where it spread to the western and north-western Caucasus during the 5th millennium BC (Wang et al. 2019).

Haplogroup J2a2-L581+(formed ca. 14100 BC, TMRCA 13100) also appears in one sample from Seh Gabi (ca. 4700 BC), and hg. J2b-M12 in two samples from Hajji Firuz (ca. 6050–5850 BC), with hg. G2a1a-Z6553 (ca. 5750) and G1a1b-GG313+ (ca. 3900 BC) in Seh Gabi pointing to a mixture of these haplogroups since the sampled Iran Neolithic individuals, compatible with a migration wave of J2a2-L581 lineages connecting the northern and southern Caucasus regions ca. 5500–4500 BC (Wang et al. 2019). This haplogroup is also found later in Anatolian Bronze Age samples and in Old Hittites.

Samples of the Late Chalcolithic in the southern Levant, from the Peqi’in Cave (ca. 4500–3900 BC), attributed to the Ghassulian period (Figure 16), can be modelled as deriving ancestry from local Levant Neolithic peoples (ca. 57%), Iran Chalcolithic (ca. 26%), and Anatolian Neolithic (ca. 26%), suggesting the spread of Iranian agriculturalists into the Levant. They overlap in the PCA with a cluster containing Neolithic Levantine samples, shifted slightly toward Levant Bronze Age samples. Their prevalent Y-DNA haplogroup, probably in twelve of thirteen samples reported, is T1a1a1b2-CTS2214 (formed ca. 6700 BC, TMRCA ca. 6700 BC), with only one sample of E1b1b1b2-Z830 subclade, also suggesting an important population replacement in the region.

Chaff tempered ceramics

In the late 6th millennium BC, eastern Anatolia, the Upper Euphrates Valley, Syria, and northern Mesopotamia were involved in a system of interactions. It seems that this network of expanding influence in a south–north axis is repeated in the final phases of the Ubaid period, during the Chalcolithic, from ca. 4500 BC onward, in a process of transformation of the role, function, and meaning of the ceramics, with extreme simplification of decoration and formal standardisation.

The diffusion of chaff tempered ceramics in eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus has been thus linked by researchers to the presence (ca. 4250–3500 BC) of northern Mesopotamian groups involved in such economic activities as pastoralism and commerce (trade in metal ores or raw materials).

The presence of “indigenous” sites distinguished by their continuation of local pottery suggests a complex system of complementary interactions between groups of differing origins and different cultures (Mesopotamian and Transcaucasian) that occupied different areas depending on their different economic activities.

The adoption of funerary customs such as elite tombs built with mudbricks but under funerary tumuli (from the north Caucasian tradition), and the presence of fortifications in the area, strengthen the increased Syro-Mesopotamian influence overlapping the cultural substratum of Late Chalcolithic communities of the Caucasus.

The emergence of a regional centres and a stratified society with elite groups in northern Mesopotamian communities probably triggered the structural and organisational changes in the South Caucasian—and eventually eastern Anatolian—communities, to adapt themselves to the growing demand from the south.

They show an increasing territorial mobility, pastoral specialisation, and the capacity to exploit ecologically different resources. Some findings point to the formation of small local elites imitating the Mesopotamian structure.

Before ca. 3500 BC, scarce Pre-Kura–Araxes settlements are found in northern areas. The culture shows little continuity with previous Chalcolithic cultures, and the Red-Black Burnished Ware displayed by the culture shows technological and cultural links to certain settlements of eastern Anatolia and the Upper Euphrates.

The synchronous appearance of these sites suggests a common network of information, trade, and culture. On the other hand, the strong typological, functional, and ornamental similarities with the southern Caucasus suggests a connection with the southern Caucasian domestic model.


The turn of the 4th millennium BC saw the development of various cultural traditions in south-east Anatolia, north-east Syria and north-west Iran; on the northern fringe, these traditions manifested themselves in the Maikop culture.

In fact, the first high-status burials containing gold and gemstone jewellery (including carnelian, turquoise and lapis lazuli) appeared in the northern, rather than southern, centres ca. 4000–3750 BC. With regard to funeral rites and stylistic characteristics of jewellery pieces, these graves have many parallels with early Maikop burials.

Few settlements are known from the classical Maikop stage (ca. 3800–3000 BC), with few fortified central places and a majority of open areas composed by groups of small and ephemeral villages of ca. 1–2 ha, with house plans of varied shapes, not articulated through foundations or postholes.

Hearths played an important role. Subsistence economy was most likely based on cattle breeding, probably including transhumance, as well as on other animal husbandry (mainly pigs) and probably agricultural means.

In the classic phase, Maikop circular pit–grave burials became larger, and showed symbolic features like a flat top (probably a cultic platform), had a stone gridle delineating its circumference, and a trend to seal smaller barrows under a ‘roof’, so as to create a cemetery-like structure. Red ochre was ceremonially sprinkeled on the deceased, placed in a flexed position on their right side, head pointing south.

Most Maikop burial assemblages and constructions do not share the magnificence of the wealthy barrows, and are simple, rectangular earthen pits beneath a shallow tumulus, although they share the same principles. Despite the abundant metalwork, there is little evidence of extractive mining or metallurgical craftsmanship.

The society appears divided thus sharply in two levels, with few individuals being regarded as the ‘chieftains’ and buried with luxurious assemblages. They were probably a sign of the emergent elite ideology in the Caucasus, absent in the southern territories, as well as monuments affirming territoriality (due to their visibility) and veneration of ancestors.

Four types of tomb chamber are distinguished: (1) A rectangular, earthen pit with rounded corners, edged around the base with stones, and with a roof of timber logs. (2) Rectangular or circular burial on the ground surface made of wooden planks or field-stones. (3) Rectangular, one- or two-chambered tombs, built above ground with slabs of stone, with access through a porthole entrance. Ornamentation is rare. This type is typical of the megalithic tradition. (5) Stone cist tombs built with slabs set into a pit (identical to the previous), with access through the roof.

In its late phase, Maikop metalwork diversified, with metalsmiths working gold, silver, and copper. The source of copper-nickel-based objects seem to lie in metal ores to the south of the Caucasus, while arsenical-copper objects—concentrated in the Kuban region—probably had a local origin. Typical Maikop pottery shows a limited range that emphasises rounded and simple profiles, like globular pots and jars, and hemispherical bowls and cups.

The Uruk expansion in Mesopotamia after about 3700 BC intensified during the late Uruk period (ca. 3350–3100 BC), and its expansion reached toward the gold, silver, and copper sources in the Caucasus Mountains. The Maikop culture of rich chieftains’ graves with Mesopotamian ornaments probably developed from this trade network in the North Caucasus Piedmont. A western and probably also a later eastern southern trade routes have been proposed, through the shores of the Black and Caspian seas respectively.

Connections with the Near East are evident in the occasional cylindrical seals (Rollsiegel) in Maikop assemblages. It seems that a distinctive technique of making thin-walled jointless beads from gold was a regional technological development of Maikop culture goldsmiths. This was deeply rooted in the Near Eastern tradition of ritualisation of the production and use of jewellery pieces made of gold, silver and gemstones.

The jewellery traditions of the Maikop culture had no successors in the Caucasus or the adjacent steppes. In the third millennium BC, the goldsmiths of Europe and Asia had to reinvent the technique of making thin-walled jointless gold beads from scratch (Trifonov et al. 2018).

To the north, the existence of steppe–Caucasian trade is supported by Maikop imports found in the north Pontic steppe from the Dniester to the Lower Volga in the east, but no Caucasian imports have been found in the Volga–Ural region. Late Maikop peoples, most likely speaking languages ancestral to modern Caucasian languages, probably interacted with individuals from Repin and late Khvalynsk cultures, and the contact was most direct on the lower Don. Late Maikop graves incorporated carved stone stelae like those of western Yamna. The trading of drugs, wool, and horses has been proposed as main steppe imports into Maikop.

Early Caucasians

The two Maikop samples from this period in the Northern Caucasus Piedmont show largely continuity with Caucasus Eneolithic samples, but with a clear additional contribution of Anatolian Neolithic-related (possibly AME) ancestry (ca. 15%) compared to them. Five Maikop outlier samples from the steppe (ca. 3600–3100 BC) represent a likely expansion of Maikop peoples to the area and their admixture with the previous Khvalynsk and local settlers, suggesting their acculturation in the region, evidenced by their admixture closest to ANE.

In terms of haplogroups, one sample from Baksanenok (ca. 3350 BC) is reported as within the K-M9 trunk, possibly L-M20. The acculturation of the North Caucasus region may also be inferred from haplogroups of outliers, which show one Q1b2b1b2-L933+ (formed ca. 13600 BC, TMRCA ca. 6600 BC) and another R1a1b-YP1272+, in contrast to previous Eneolithic (J-M304) and later (L-M20) haplogroups.

Both individuals were buried in the same kurgan in Sharakhalsun and with similar radiocarbon dates (ca. 3350-3105 BC), and a later individual attributed to the Yamna culture in the same site (ca. 2780 BC) also shows a typical Indo-Anatolian lineage R1b1a2-V1636. Another outlier shows hg. T1-L206.

Horse trade, including wheels, carts, and the possibility of a quicker transport of metals into Uruk, is proof of an indirect contact between steppe herders and Mesopotamia. The need of exported domesticated horses to be accompanied by experienced breeders and riders from the lower Don offers a solid framework to support the hypothesis of the presence of Late-Indo-European-speaking peoples in Mesopotamia, and thus allow for Indo-European borrowings in Sumerian.

Nevertheless, the scarcity of proofs for wooden vehicles in the region before the first attested one in Sharakhalsun, as well as bioarchaeological investigations of common representations which point to an emphasis on cattle as driving force—instead of  highlighting the means of transportation, as in the Yamna culture—seriously challenge the hypothesis of large-scale mobility in the piedmont and the Caucasus.

The condition of Pre-North-West Indo-European (likely spoken by the late Repin culture expanding westward) as an Euphratic superstratum of Sumerian would require a more detailed explanation of internal and external cultural influence, and reasons for potential language replacement and expansion in Mesopotamia.


In the Late Chalcolithic (ca. 4250–3000 BC), the western cultural koiné characteristic of the previous period continues, at least in south-west Anatolia and along the southern and middle Aegean coast. Further to the east, cultural developments show a different trend, with influence from the Late Uruk pottery reaching ca. 3500 BC eastern Anatolian regions, including the Plateau.

This influence coincides with the start of Transcaucasian contacts, too. Regional fragmentation is the rule, and the Black Sea coast shows no eastern influence. On the contrary, ring-shaped figurines—flat objects of stylised female shape made of silver, lead, or gold—connect the Plateau to the southern Balkans, which is seen as evidence of close contacts with the west Pontic area, particulary Bulgaria.

In Syrian and northern Mesopotamian regions, south-eastern Anatolia, and the Upper Euphrates, the period ca. 3500–3000 BC was associated thus with the formation of large and important regional centres, a general reorganisation of the craft production – with growing specialisation –, and the emergence of stratified societies and elite groups.

Late Chalcolithic architecture evolves into settlements of huge dimension. Increasing social and economic complexity lead gradually into the Early Bronze Age (EBA), although nothing suggests the emergence in the area of proto-urban structures typical of the Upper Euphrates or northern Syria.

The Ubaid or Uruk expansion is supposed to have affected wide regions in the Middle East, although the precise regional mechanisms are still unknown. For example, whereas the Upper Euphrates shows indigenous social complexity, the Upper Tigris Valley shows a resistance to foreign influence. South-eastern Anatolian and northern Mesopotamian populations interacted ca. 3500–3000 BC with settlements in the Upper Euphrates, Upper Tigris, and beyond in their quest to obtain raw materials.

Uruk colonists seem to have expanded to the north. Although it had been presumed that early state systems were restricted to the southern Mesopotamian alluvium or Uruk-influenced sites to the north, different sites show that indigenous societies which whom Urukians interacted had independently evolved into complex administrative centres in south-eastern Anatolia, like Hamoukar, Tell Brak, or Arslantepe.


Two periods reveal the centrality of the Arslantepe site, located in the Malatya plain, as a place of cultural boundary in the network of interregional relations of the Middle East. The first is the Late Chalcolithic period, over the entire 4th millennium BC, when a very early hierarchical and politically centralised society developed on the site; and the second period refers to the 2nd and early 1st millennium BC, when Arslantepe was affected by the eastward expansion of the Hittite state.

During the first half of the 4th millennium, Arslantepe had already developed a political system in which the elites had gained some control over staples, and developed well-established circuits for the centralisation and redistribution of foodstuffs, carried out in public ceremonial areas. The material culture of the site was local, although it seems to have been a powerful regional centre, whose leaders interacted with their Mesopotamian neighbours.

The elites had their residence separated from the common houses, on top of a mound, close to temples, which indicates their social importance and the symbolic emphasis on their prestige and growing power. Their role as central authority included control over food and its redistribution in ceremonies and feasts.

Around 3500–3400 BC, the main temples were abruptly abandoned, and a radical change occurred in the power system, which led to an extraordinary development of the Arslantepe society towards a stronger and more centralised structure. A monumental, imposing, tall building with very thick walls—although much smaller than the previous buildings—was built, without any cultic or religious features.

This building and the courtyard, whose entrance was decorated with stamped lozenge motifs and wall paintings, constituted the core of the new public area. There seems to have been a throne room opened towards the courtyard, a place for audience, and also a private section for authorised persons.

The public area may have been conceived for the leader to address the public and held audiences in a ceremonial environment, now without any cultic or religious connotations. On a corner, a temple with a floor plan identical to the audience building shows that cultic and religious rites were of restricted access, probably for people of high status. Authority was thus excercised without any religious mediation, and elites preserved the religious authority, detaching themselves still more from the rest of the population.

Economic and administrative rooms were added, evidenced by intensive sealing and sophisticated accounting system. Interesting are certain scenes, like those of bulls pulling a cart or plough driven by a coachman (depicting a ploughing scene), and a transport of an eminent person on a threshing sledge car found on a cylinder seal.

Early Anatolians

Anatolian has long been considered the first language to branch off of the Proto-Indo-European trunk, due to its peculiar archaisms (Trager and Smith 1950), even before the proposal of a Late Indo-European community from which all other known Indo-European languages branched out.

Based on the known Khvalynsk migrations of the previous period, and on the presence of a prehistoric geographic and genetic barrier in the Caucasus Mountains (Wang et al. 2019), the most likely route of expansion of Proto-Anatolians lies in the Balkans (Anthony 2007), which is supported by the presence of Balkan outliers with Steppe ancestry.

The main question has turned thus to the when and how of the migration into Anatolia of Proto-Anatolian speakers. One important cue, based on its relevance for Suvorovo–Novodanilovka chieftains, is horse domestication: it is found at Çadir in north-central Anatolia already in the early 4th millennium BC, continuing into the 3rd millennium, representing thus the earliest evidence of its presence in Anatolia, comfortably earlier than Late Chalcolithic remains of eastern Anatolia or the earliest representations of a wheeled vehicle by Sumerians ca. 3100 BC, probably pulled along by oxen.

Similarities between the Varna culture (lasting until ca. 4200 BC) and that of İkiztepe on the central coastal region of the Black Sea strongly imply close ties between the eastern Balkans and central Anatolia, with this population having been proposed as cultural predecessors of the Hittites based on its connection with Balkan Early Eneolithic pit grave cultures, including extended, supine inhumations with the use of ochre, as well as the use of ring-shaped idols, and also craniometric features proper of south-eastern Europeans.

The lack of similar remains in western Anatolia may suggest an ancient maritime connection to continental Europe through the coasts of the Black Sea rather than by way of a land route (Özdoğan 2011). This is compatible with the Anatolian Chalcolithic sample of Barcõn, Marmara Region, north-west Anatolia (ca. 3800 BC) showing “eastern” contribution, but no Steppe ancestry.

The lack of relevant cultural or genetic connections in north-west Anatolia may also suggest the infiltration of small groups of Proto-Anatolian speakers who have not left much traces in other intermediate Balkan regions, either.

In any case, the Sea of Marmara had become a true cultural barrier during the Chalcolithic, separating south-eastern Europe from Anatolia, as evidenced by the split of the “Balkano-Anatolian Culture Complex” by the turn of the 5th to the 4th millennium BC, at the end of the Vinça Period.

Based on the likely presence of Anatolian speakers ca. 2500 BC in south-eastern Anatolia, it is tempting to locate the arrival of pioneer Proto-Anatolian speakers in İkiztepe, north-central Anatolia, via the south-eastern Balkans—whether by land or sea—and their expansion southward into central Anatolia with the sociopolitical change at Arslantepe ca. 3500–3400 BC.

The lack of genetic traces from the steppe on south-western and central Bronze Age samples may suggest a low genetic impact of the Anatolian migration, or the replacement of this early population with eastern migrants, or both.

Among the investigated eighteen ancient individuals from the Late Chalcolithic to the Early Bronze Age in Arslantepe, there is no evidence of a major genetic shift, although there is high heterogeneity compared to other Anatolians, and more Iran Neolithic-related ancestry..

Steppe Package

After the expansion of Suvorovo–Novodanilovka chieftains through south-eastern Europe, and the use of kurgan burials by Cernavodă I and related groups (first half of 4th millennium), there is a process of coexistence and acculturation in the north-west and west Pontic areas at the end of the Eneolithic, ca. 3600–2900 BC, where the first burial mounds indicate a lack of standardisation.

This process is simultaneous with the evolution of Late Copper Age communities north of the Black Sea, such as Lower Mikhailovka, Trypillia C (including Usatovo), Late Kvityana, Late Deriïvka, Late Sredni Stog, post-Mariupol, and eastern cultures like Repin, Maikop, etc.

In these late Eneolithic ‘kurgan cultures’, primary graves consisted usually of small mounds (only later became enlarged), were orientated to various directions, and individuals lied in a contracted position to the side or (continuing earlier periods) in an extended position.

Grave pits were more oval than rectangular, and ochre was sparsely used (if at all). Both males and females were buried, and only rarely had they assemblages. The most prominent burials with inventories are those of Trypillia C2, Horodiștea–Foltești and particularly Baden–Coţofeni (later evolving into Usatovo) at the Lower Danube.

These are mostly local developments, although there might have been some infiltration of local steppe peoples from the Lower Mikhailovka and Kvityana into the Lower Danube.

Unlike Marija Gimbutas’ claim of succeeding ‘kurgan population waves’ into south-eastern Europe, the Eneolithic period shows merely a long-term, low-level population interaction between similar steppe environments north and west of the Black Sea, continuing some of the cultural patterns left by Suvorovo–Novodanilovka chiefs ca. 4600–4000 BC, representing therefore local populations integrating ‘eastern’ burial customs in their own rituals. Which of these populations might have been direct cultural heirs of the Suvorovo migrants, and which showed mere remains of their earlier influence, is unclear.

Precisely in these steppe areas north-west and west of the Black Sea are few pit–grave kurgans found ca. 3700–3000 BC, of variable shape and rituals, from the Prut–Siret–Plain to the south-west Balkans, including Horodiștea II, Gordinești-Cernavodă II, Foltești, Horodiștea-Foltești, and to the south into the Dobruja and the Eastern Thracian Plain in Cernavodă III and Ezero A1. Such simple, ‘steppe-related graves’ are also to be found to the west in cultures like Boleráz and Baden in the Carpathian Basin.

There are thus similar cultural findings all over Europe since the mid–4th millennium, unifying regions that were previously separated in material culture, as well as in social, economic and ritual aspects: so the predecessor of the Baden complex, Cernavodă III–Boleráz, spread from the Lower Danube to the Bodensee in the northern Alps (beginning ca. 3700/3600 BC); and later, ca. 3350–2700 BC, the Globular Amphorae in north and north-east Carpathian Basin and central Europe, and the Baden culture from the Carpathian Basin to the Northern Alps.

Included among these related cultures and ceramic groups are those of the whole Balkan Peninsula and Lower Danube, almost reaching north-west Anatolia; and also the Corded Ware culture (Single Grave and Battle Axe culture, and neighbouring East European groups in the first half up to the mid–3rd millennium BC), eventually connecting the Volga with the Rhein and Scandinavia.

All these cultures are connected through a unifying pottery, fine ceramic—often drinking and eating ware—with identic shape (round to tappered bottom) and emblematic cord decoration (with mixed forms like the Cucuteni C-Ware), apart from prestige objects (viz. triangular silex spearhead and the European dagger idea), and symbolic aim and key elements of burial rituals (like individual graves, gender roles, and social attributes). Regional and cultural differences lie in technique/technology, specific subsistence economy, settlement patterns, and social organisation. It seems that these cultures were therefore united in certain essential social, spiritual, and religious aspects.

Apart from this, it is also apparent that the expansion of Suvorovo chiefs must have set in motion the start of the “Secondary Products Revolution”, which becomes full-fledged in eastern Europe ca. 3600 BC, and includes traction, dairy farming, horse riding, and wool production.

This revolution brought about changes in economic and social complexity, population growth, density pressure, expansion to secondary environments, deforestation and increasing pasture, and easier transport, greater mobility, regional specification or territorial competition.

The new emphasis is thus on cattle, with a marked rise in its numbers, and a diminishing number of pigs (with a later, gradually rising number of goats and sheep), and it eventually affects all aspects of life, including social and spiritual beliefs.

Corded ware

Corded ware refers to corded decoration of pottery assemblages, made with a cord, which has been proposed to be originally derived from twined hemp (the rope of which is used to control herds), hence related to cattle-herding cultures; or from wool cords, hence related to sheep and wool processing. Whichever the case, its spread over a great part of central Europe was mediated by the Globular Amphorae culture, which popularised the drinking vessels and their corded ornamentation.

In the first horizon of Corded Ware culture, a cord is twisted, or wrapped around a stick, and then pressed directly onto the fresh surface of a vessel leaving a characteristic decoration (Wickelschnur).

This technique appears as a non-native trait in the Early Eneolithic Bubanj–Salcuţa–Krivodol cultural complex, with no correlation in autochthonous Neolithic traditions, possibly from influence of the Suvorovo–Novodanilovka and north-west Pontic cultures, at the end of the 5th millennium BC (ca. 4200 BC).

This is supported by the presence of horse-head sceptres in the Balkans, which become sporadic in the south and central Balkans beyond the Danube—like cord decoration and other steppe-related material culture, such as funerary rituals or ceramic shapes —which may point to their adoption as a symbol of power and prestige, at the same time as steppe influence causes a cultural unity of the region, reflected in tell-type settlements, similar ceramic forms, anthropomorphic and bone figurines, zoomorphic altars, among others.

The spread of the 2nd Corded Ware horizon ca. 4000–3750 BC is clearly (and almost exclusively) identified with the Coţofeni group, especially Oltenia and Transylvania initially, and later Coţofeni-Kostolac towards the south, into the cultures of the Lower Danube and northern Bulgaria, together with pottery of the Cucuteni–Trypillian culture.

These cultures are connected in turn with movements of the steppe-related Cernavodă I community in the Danube delta, to the south into Ezerovo (Bulatović 2014). The decoration is applied with a real cord, but ornaments are shorter and do not cover the whole girth, which is found only later in the classic central European corded ware.

The corded ware decoration was adopted widely during in the middle to second half of the 3rd millennium BC in the north-west and west Pontic areas, the Balkans, and the north and north-east Carpathian Basin. Only in the central Balkans were new steppe elements noticed during this period, which may point to a closer cultural relationship of this area with the Pontic–Caspian steppe.

The Usatovo culture, settled in the territory of the Trypillian culture, eventually replaced the Coţofeni culture at the time of the expansion of the third horizon of the Corded Ware culture into Central Europe.

The third horizon of the Corded Ware culture appeared in the late Eneolithic / Early Bronze Age in areas to were Coţofeni and related cultures had expanded during the second horizon, including central (Vučedol, Bell Beaker) and northern (Classical Corded Ware culture), as well as central and southern Balkans, Greece and the Peloponnese, including the Eastern Thracian Plain, and also a western area in the Adriatic coast (through a southern route from Bell Beaker or Vučedol). These ornamentations are often local innovations connected to previous regional Eneolithic cultures (Bulatović 2014).

There was a long-term connection between the north-west Pontic steppe area and the border of the forest zone up to the eastern Baltic area, centred on the Dniester–Buh limes (encompassing the Dniester, Dnieper, and Buh rivers). It also included the areas between the Vistula and the Dnieper (with the Lesser Poland area) – which topographically form a natural continuum.

North Pontic area

At the end of the 5th millennium BC, Trypillia ceramic imports appear at the Neolithic Dnieper sites. In the forest-steppe region, they occur on a number of sites belonging to the Kyiv–Cherkassy variant of the Dnieper–Donets community, and later imports reach into the forest zone, into the territory of the Pit–Comb Ware culture. Prestige objects begin to appear at this time on the north Pontic region, too, marking the beginning of the prestige exchange.

After 4000 BC, different groups were formed in the steppes. In the west, distinct late Sredni Stog cultures appear, remaining in contact with Trypillian villagers, and some cultural assimilation seems to have happened east of the Dnieper ca. 3700–3500 BC.

The Kvityana (also “post-Mariupol”) culture is characterised by supine burials and specific pottery, and encompasses the Dnieper steppe and forest-steppe region, the Azov region, and the Donets. Its emergence was probably related to the development of the Lower Mikhailovka culture.

The Kvityana culture is conservative and archaic in appearance, manifested in the burial rite involving a supine position, and in the pottery with no corded or caterpillar track decoration. Eventually, the Kvityana culture would expand to the south-west, with typical assemblages found in Usatovo territory.

Sredni Stog settlements appeared in the Middle and Lower Dnieper and Lower Don valleys and surrounds, with lifestyle based on restricted mobility, and orientated to valley resources. Their subsistence was varied, according to its distribution between the forest-steppes and the steppes, but a hunter-fisher-gatherer economy remained prevalent.

People fished, hunted small and large game including wild horse, and kept some sheep-goats, cattle and pigs (as well as dogs). They also probably herded horses and there is evidence for control of the horse by bridles.

An important event in the history of population movements in this period was the appearance of Neolithic tribes of the Pit–Comb Ware culture in north-east Ukraine. Analogues of this culture have been found in the region of the Volga–Oka Rivers.

The appearance of new ethnocultural groups in Ukraine resulted in an increasingly heterogeneous regional population, which differed in their cultural, religious, and anthropological traits.

The Deriïvka culture (ca. 4000–3000 BC), known from settlement materials in the Dnieper, at the sites of Deriïvka and Molyukhov Bugor, and distinctive pottery in Oleksandriia on the Oskol, is found in different forest-steppe regions in the Dnieper and the Donets basins, limiting to the south with Kvityana, and to the north with Pit–Comb ware cultures of the forest zone. Its pottery shows consistent features, such as a weak profile and slightly elongated proportions, with high, straight mouths, evenly cut off at the rim, and conical bases.

Deriïvka is on a promontory of the Omelnik river, a tributary of the Middle Dnieper, and represents a settlement of 60 by 40 m, including hearths, pits and two or more large rectangular structures with slightly earth-sunk floors. Other areas seem to have been given over to specific tasks, connected with pot use, bone tool manufacture and preparation of fishing gear and fish processing. Ducks and several species of fish show the importance of riverine resources. The abundance of horse remains could have come from both wild and managed animals, but scarce hints at the proportion of males may indicate they were domesticated.

Deriïvka shows a wide range of ceramics and anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figurines associated with Trypillia CI-CII, and ornamental corded compositions of Deriïvka ceramics are just like those from late Trypillia Usatovo, Gorodsk, and Tsviklovtsy.

The Molyukhov Bugor and Deriïvka sites from the Deriïvka culture show a clear reliance on equine products, mainly horse exploitation (ca. 15–50%), hunting (ca. 15–50%, mainly of deer and elk), fishing, and cattle breeding (ca. 15–40%).

Nevertheless, the absence of ruminant dairy product residues suggests a relatively unsophisticated knowledge of ruminant domestication, which implies the presence of wild rather than domesticated horses. Agricultural tools and cereal impressions in pots suggest plant exploitation as a complementary activity.

This primitive agriculture probably emerged as an imitation of Trypillian agriculture, based on the finding of numerous hoes, querns, and flat-bottomed vessels and flint tools similar to sickle blade elements. The fish and wild boar representations of the zoomorphic plastic art, apart from the high percentage of hunted fauna, support the high reliance on hunting and fishing as the main subsistence economy, depending on the ecological niche.

The Deriïvka culture emerged as the transformation of some part of the Neolithic forest-steppe tribes, since pointed base pottery is a characteristic feature of its assemblages. From the mid–5th millennium BC on, contacts with newcomers from Neolithic communities of pit–comb pottery is seen in the Dnieper–Don interfluve. This interaction is continued by Eneolithic communities, up to late materials (ca. 4000–3750 BC) with stroke and pit-comb complexes, material of Ksizovo type, and rhomb–pit pottery.

There was local production of flat-bottomed basins (particularly at Deriïvka) and jugs (particularly at Molyukhov Bugor) within the specific Trypillian tradition. Corded decoration appeared first on cultures with a closer link to Trypillian cultures, and was thus prevalent among pottery from Molyukhov Bugor, in contrast to the scarce findings in Oleksandriia and Deriïvka, where they appear during later stages of their occupation.

Further up the Dnieper (mainly on its left bank) was the Pivikha culture, with its northern border reaching the Kyiv region, and with its imports reaching to the south into Mikhailovka. North of the Pivikha culture, Neolithic sites of the Dnieper–Donets culture still remain active in this period, with the forests on the left bank of the Dnieper showing sites of the Pit–Comb Ware culture, whose imports can be seen on the Deriïvka and Oleksandriia settlements.

The Lower Mikhailovka culture covers a wide area and period, showing a characteristic internal unity and consistent manifestations: analogous pottery in settlements and burials, interment ritual, and burial structure, with ditched cromlechs, an entry orientated to the southwest, mounds all made the same way, and a compound construction with clay overlying the black earth. It was located on the Dnieper–Danube steppe region, and chronologically it begins ca. 4000–3500 BC, with some overlapping of territory and culture with Kvityana.

The Mikhailovka I site reflects parallel adaptations with the north Pontic forest-steppe areas consisting of permanent settlements in river valleys with fortifications, and occasional farming west of the Don, evidenced also by occasional grain impressions in their vessels.

Among domestic animals, mainly sheep and goat bones are found (and occasionally pigs), with only up to 7% of horse remains (used for secondary products rather than meat), and utilisation of wild resources, consistent with a sedentary way of life.

The Zhyvotylivka–Vovchans’k-type sties appear as burials cut into existing kurgans between the Prut and the Don. Their pottery belongs to forest-steppe (Kasperovo-Gordineşti) type, not to the steppe (Usatovo) variant. It appears to be a late, eastwards expanding culture, which was replaced eventually by Neolithic sites of the emergent Pit–Comb Ware culture, e.g. in the Samara tributary on the east bank of the Dnieper.

The period ca. 3500–3000 BC is characterised by a cultural break-up in the north Pontic area. Cultures from the previous period see their territories much reduced, or divided into smaller, more localised units.

The Trypillia world continues to lead this area, but the settlement pattern is noticeably altered, the overall density of sites decrease dramatically, and the culture breaks down into individual groups with different burial traditions: in the Dniester region, Vykhvatinsk; in the steppe zone, Usatovo, which absorbed some features of the Lower Mikhailovka culture; in the Prut and Middle Dniester regions, Gordineşti (corresponding to Horodiștea on the Prut–Siret interfluve, and on the Lower Danube to Cernavodă III); Sofievka in the forest-steppes of the Middle Dnieper.

Trypillia increases its influence over Deriïvka, where corded decoration (“pre-Corded Ware”), plastic art, and bowls appear. The fate of Pivikha is not clear. To the south, Lower Mikhailovka remains intact on the Azov region and the Crimean steppes. To the north, the Kvityana culture survives in its initial core zone.

The Dnieper–Buh group of sites emerges with mixed features between Trypillia, Lower Mikhailovka and Kvityana (Rassamakin 1999). All these terminal Eneolithic units developed gradually, probably as an adaptive response to climatic conditions over the course of the 4th millennium, and adopted a way of life similar to their EBA successors in the area.

A true Trypillian colonisation wave happened in what seems a mass exodus of Trypillian communities to the steppe (Manzura 2005). Gordineşti tribes expand to the south, into the zone of the Usatovo sites, and to the east and southeast, towards the Dnieper.

The Zhyvotylivka–Vovchans’k burial assemblages are linked to this culture, and connected the forest-steppe Buh, Dniester, and Prut regions with the Lower Don and the northern Caucasus, where the late stage of the Maikop culture (the Novosvobodnaya sites) continued.

Maikop cultural elements became more widespread in the steppe zone, and also Konstantinovka vessels appeared in Gorodsk settlements, probably with Zhyvotylivka–Vovchans’k as intermediaries.

The connection between Pre-Caucasian (Maikop) and Late Trypillian cultures that had moved to the left bank of the Dnieper points not only to Caucasian imports, but to a likely Caucasian immigration in a series of small shifts or ‘shuttle’ movements, possibly with the aim of exchange, trade, spoils of war, borrowing of technological devices, etc. This migration is linked to the creation of “bridge” communities, like the Zhyvotylivka-Vovchans’k cultural group, and the Late Trypillian Gordineşti group.

The expansion of Zhyvotylivka graves across the Pontic steppes, from the Carpathians to the Lower Don and the Kuban Basin clearly signals a rapid dissolution of former cultural borders, and the beginning of active movements of peoples, things and ideas over vast territories.

Globular Amphorae and Proto-Corded Ware

The easternmost area of the Funnel Beaker culture had become more Baden-like with the expansion of the Baden culture in its western area ca. 3300–2900 BC (with findings up to 2600 BC). On the east, the influence of the neighbouring Trypillian culture is seen from ca. 3000 BC, either from earlier or later groups.

In this period of reduction or concentration of settlements, vertical hierarchical relationships (central sites) were replaced by heterogeneous horizontal network links, eliminating the previous cultural boundaries, thus promoting the spread of foreign (Baden and Trypillian) stylistic influences.

The later periods of shorter oscillations of more wet and drier sub-periods ca. 3700–3000 BC, and especially 2800–2200 BC, may have caused some of the population movements seen in Baden and younger Funnel Beaker culture phases, and older Corded Ware culture (CWC). Slash and burn techniques of agriculture—especially those practised by Trypillian and Funnel Beaker populations—must have intensified effects of natural growth of humidity (ca. 3400–2400), incrementing fluvial activities in west Ukrainian river valleys, and increasing deforestation processes.

There is a trend during in the late 4th millennium to intensified expansion towards maximum inhabitation and agricultural use of all ecological zones, associated with favourable environmental conditions. The traditionally densely inhabited areas of Lesser Poland, the Carpathian foothills, Sandomierz Basin, Lublin Upland and Volhynian Upland, as well as those on the northern plains, are maintained, but there is a clear expansion towards less favourable areas, like the Carpathian Mountains and the Sudetes, with colonisation of the forest zone, especially Mazovia and central and north-eastern Poland.

This reinforced pastoral tendencies in economy and caused changes in settlement patterns, with a reduction of great central settlements and the appearance of fortified settlement centres concentrated in some regions. Other parts of the population became increasingly specialised in stock breeding, leading a mobile way of life, favouring smaller mobile groups tied by kinship links instead of village-like communities, which may have favoured the initial expansion of a Proto-Corded Ware population in the area, among other groups. The brief phase of significant cooling ca. 2900–2850 BC may have favoured the initial, swift and synchronous migration of the group through northern Europe.

In the forest-steppe zone, herding and hunting activities intensified, while agricultural traditions were preserved, as shown by the Sofievka, Kasperivtsy, and Gorodsk groups. From the end of the 4th millennium BC, mobile parts of the late Trypillian populations moved to the steppe zone, absorbing more and more steppe elements: among others, cord ornamentation (in Vykhvatintsy, Troyaniv, and Gorodsk groups), pottery forms (Vykhvatintsy, which served as prototype for the Thuringian Apmphorae, dispersed along the Dniester river, too), flat burials with bodies in contracted position on the left or right side (Vykhvatintsy, reminding of Polgár culture different male-female position, and later Corded Ware burials, and also Lower Mikhailovka, under a mound without stone constructions).

At the end of the Trypillia culture, its agricultural system collapsed completely. The cattle-centred economy of the agricultural Trypillia culture was probably carried into the steppes in the 4th millennium BC, and this is probably behind its adoption as main subsistence economy in Proto-Corded Ware groups, at the same time as west Yamna further specialised the trend that expanded with Repin.

The Globular Amphora culture (GAC), emerging in the same area as the Funnel Beaker culture but with a more mobile character, based on the scarcity of settlements found, shows a similar reliance on livestock (with decreasing relevance of cattle and increasing relevance of pigs), and characteristic pottery, with globular-shaped pots with two or four handles.

GAC settlers on the north Pontic area, identified as the culture’s eastern group, formed a strong long-distance structure for the circulation of cultural patterns, in which three subsystems or route foundations can be distinguished: the Volhynia, the Podolia, and the Siret (Moldavian) subsystems. These systems were used for about 500 years, from the 30th to the 25/24th centuries BC, and left Pontic elements assimilated by societies inhabiting the Lowlands on the Vistula river, such as adaptations of the funerary rite to the horse, and potentially the early reception of niche grave structures by the Złota culture.

The expansion of Globular Amphora culture groups to the southeast, through the supposed cradle territories of the Corded Ware culture (Volhynia, Podolia, and upper Dniester river basin) likely destroyed the oldest, primary structures of the Proto-Corded Ware communities. This Proto-Corded Ware population found refuge and conditions for further development in south-eastern margin zone of the Funnel Beaker culture territories, penetrating at first the upper parts of the loess uplands like typical Funnel Beaker sites, but on the margins of their range, and also on areas avoided by Funnel Beaker settlement agglomerations.

These close contacts between the Carpathians and the Dniester or Buh rivers with GAC included steppe cultural patterns traditionally identified with Yamna, but there might have been multiple sources of inspirations, such as CWC groups from the Vistula drainage basin and also CWC groups from the Carpathians, both of which are known to have settled in neighbouring regions for a long time. In turn, the origin of ‘steppe’ elements in the CWC may have been much more complex.

Corded Ware settlements showed thus a continuation of subsistence strategies of Funnel Beaker, with cattle and sheep herding and cereal farming playing an important role, but also (in the first occupied sites covered with primeval forests) showing all possible subsistence strategies, like hunting and foraging.  The deforestation caused by the Funnel Beaker culture in the eastern part of the Carpathian Foreland, creating opened local landscapes, allowed Corded Ware herdsmen to enter these territories and practise their way of pastoral economic activities without problem.

Late Uralians

The finding of Yersinia pestis in two Funnel Beaker individuals from the Frälsegården passage grave in Sweden (ca. 2900 BC), basal to other Bronze Age strains, and not found in nearby Pitted Ware culture, suggests that Neolithic farming villages suffered epidemics before the arrival of steppe-derived populations.

Their higher human and animal densities may have helped spread the disease, which seems to have expanded ca. 3700 BC in its basal strain, and then ca. 3300 BC in its typical Bronze Age strain associated with Corded Ware and Yamna. This supports the spread of the disease prior to steppe migrations into Europe, but geographically associated with the steppe. Trypillian mega-settlements are thus best candidates for the emergence of the ancestors of plague lineages.

The connection of Trypillia with TRB in Sweden is probably to be found in the expansion of the Globular Amphorae culture and the mobility of its population, which likely helped spread the disease throughout northern Europe.

The major genetic turnover that happened during the Neolithic demographic collapse, and the associated change in settlements and economic structures, particularly in Late Trypillian groups (abandoning of large villages and adoption of mobile herding), may be therefore explained by the spread of this deadly pandemic that benefits precisely from the agglomeration of big settlements.

This population displacement probably set in motion a complex expansion of peoples in the north Pontic area, which ended with the migration of some groups—already associated with cattle-herding economy—to the north-west through the Volhynia–Podolia region, pushed by Late Trypillian groups.

The individual from Serteya VIII, in western Russia at the border with Belarus (ca. 4000 BC), of hg. R1a-M420 (Chekunova et al. 2014), and an EHG-like individual from Kudruküla, Estonia (ca. 3000 BC), of hg. R1a1b-YP1272 sample, both from Combed Ceramic-related groups, support the existence of R1a–dominated Neolithic groups in the eastern European forest zone during the 4th millennium BC, including the north Pontic forested areas.

Individuals from the north Pontic forest-steppe spanning the 4th millennium BC (classified as Ukraine Eneolithic samples) form a cline spanning from the Mesolithic/Neolithic cluster to the Northern Caucasus in the PCA, having a mixture of hunter-gatherer-, Steppe- and NWAN-related ancestry.

This is compatible with the expansion of forest groups from the north (or resurgence of local hunter-gatherer populations of the forest-steppe) into areas previously occupied by Novodanilovka settlers of Steppe-like ancestry, and admixture with them through exogamy.

The earliest one, from Oleksandriia (ca. 4000 BC) shows the highest contribution of Steppe ancestry—connected to north Pontic populations rather than the Don–Volga–Ural area[11]—while later samples from Deriïvka (ca. 3500 BC and 3100 BC) show more hunter-gatherer-related ancestry. This Steppe-related ancestry also found later in Corded Ware individuals may be more properly referred to as Forest-Steppe ancestry.

The sample from Oleksandriia is reported as of haplogroup R1a1a1-M417[12] (formed ca. 6600 BC, TMRCA ca. 3500 BC), which has an estimated expansion date ca. 3800 BC based on modern populations (Underhill et al. 2015), roughly coincident with the split of haplogroup R1a1a1b-Z645 (formed ca. 3500 BC, TMRCA ca. 3000 BC).

Its isolated finding i the Middle Dnieper forest-steppe region, together with the known interaction of this area with forest cultures to the north, suggest a replacement of the previous Novodanilovka settlers with male migrants from northern forested areas, spreading Uralic languages with them into the north Pontic forest-steppe.

Copper Age Trypillian samples from the Verteba cave have been reported as having approximately 80% NWAN-related ancestry, with ca. 20% of hunter-gatherer-related ancestry (intermediate between WHG and EHG), consistent with their origin in early European Neolithic farmers admixing with hunter-gatherers from the region. Their prevalent Y-DNA haplogroup G2a2b2a-P303 (formed ca. 12400 BC, TMRCA ca. 9700 BC) further confirms their direct evolution from the first farmers from Anatolia (Mathieson et al. 2018). There is also a sample of haplogroup E-M96, also found in expanding Neolithic farmers.

At the mtDNA level, Trypillia shows typical Neolithic farmer haplogroups, with a closer connection with Funnel Beaker samples (Nikitin et al. 2017), which supports the described long-term exogamy practice with groups of the northern Carpathian area, taking Funnel Beaker as a proxy for them.

A late Trypillian outlier from the Verteba Cave (mean date ca. 3230 BC, compared to the others ca. 3700 BC), of hg. G2a2b2a1a1b1a1a1-L43 (formed ca. 2600 BC, TMRCA ca. 1600 BC), shows contribution of Steppe ancestry similar to the individual of Oleksandriia, clustering closely with the previous Suvorovo-related outliers. This sample, likely predating the expansion of late Repin/Yamna settlers in the area, supports the presence of Steppe ancestry in the north Pontic area driven by previous Novodanilovka settlers.

Novodanilovka-related peoples were eventually assimilated after their cultural demise by other groups expanding into the north Pontic forest-steppe and steppe areas, as evidenced by this male of a clear Neolithic Y-chromosome haplogroup but elevated Steppe ancestry. The same origin of Steppe ancestry is thus to be expected for Proto-Corded Ware populations of hg. R1a1a1-M417 stemming from the north Pontic forest-steppe area.

Samples of the Globular Amphora culture from sites in Kuyavia and Podolia (ca. 3400–2800 BC) form a tight cluster, showing thus high similarity over a large distance. Both groups have more hunter-gatherer-related ancestry than did Middle Neolithic groups from central Europe, representing thus a resurgence of this ancestry in central European farmers. They harbour mainly NWAN ancestry with WHG contributions (ca. 25%, similar to the level seen in Chalcolithic Iberian individuals), but no significant Steppe-related ancestry, representing thus a barrier to gene flow.

This barrier to gene flow is also related to previous groups of the north Pontic steppe, which harbour hunter-gatherer-ancestry composed mainly of an EHG-related component. The greater similarity of GAC peoples to Middle Neolithic individuals from Hungary, Iberia, and Sweden, rather than geographically closer populations, supports their origin in north-central Europe rather than the east.

The prevalent haplogroup in GAC samples from Kierzkowo (3100–2900 BC), Ilyatka (ca. 2900–2700 BC), and Koszyce (ca. 2880–2776 BC) I2a1b1a2b-Z161 (formed ca. 8500 BC, TMRCA ca. 7800 BC), found widespread across Europe, from Iberia Middle Neolithic and Chalcolithic to hunter-gatherers from the Iron Gates (ca. 6500–5700 BC). Its parent haplogroup I2a1b1a2-CTS10057 and sister clades are also found widely distributed between the Baltic and west Ukraine since the Mesolithic.

The finding of subclade I2a1b1a2b1-L801 (formed ca. 7800 BC, TMRCA ca. 2000 BC) in most samples from Koszyce, Sandomierz, Mierzanowice, Wilczyce, and in samples of the Złota group, apart from late Corded Ware samples from Poland (Fernandes et al. 2018), supports precisely this subclade as the main lineage expanding with GAC settlers from east-central Europe, and the potential connection of the GAC population with the earliest Corded Ware groups. Their varied mtDNA lineages, H, J, K, U and W, support a mixture of hunter-gatherer and Neolithic populations.

Don–Volga–Ural region

To the east of the north Pontic area, the evolution of the early Khvalynsk–Novodanilovka cultural-historical area gave way to different interconnected local cultures after ca. 4000 BC, whose main demographic base were the previous expanded patrilineally related clans, developing in close contact with each other, but also in contact with neighbouring emerging cultures. Their language is to be associated with an evolving Late Proto-Indo-European.

The Caspian steppes linked to the Lower Volga, the Lower Don, and the northern Caucasus region were characterised by the evolution of kurgan burials. The pottery assemblages are similar to those expanded previously under the Khvalynsk–Novodanilovka period, i.e. similar to the one continued by Kvityana, but distinct e.g. from the innovative Deriïvka.

On the Lower Don, the Konstantinovka culture appeared as a continuation of the previous kurgan cultures with rich assemblages, distinct from the flat cemeteries of the Dnieper region. Characteristic of this culture is its orientation towards the Maikop culture, whose influence remains initially restricted to the Lower Don region.

The change of early to late Khvalynsk on the Lower Volga is defined by the Kara-Khuduk site in the Caspian region, and Razdorskoe on the Lower Don, and thus dated to ca. 3900–3800 BC, but it must have lasted at least until the expansion of the Repin culture.

Pottery from this site includes incised ornament and rim form which mark its difference with the early Khvalynsk culture (although a similar rim fragment comes from the Khvalynsk cemetery), and connects this region to the Middle Eneolithic Pontic–Caspian steppes.

The early Repin culture (beginning ca. 3900/3800 BC) appeared in the region west of Khvalynsk, north of the Konstantinovka culture, and east of the Deriïvka and Kvityana cultures. It emerged on the territory of the previous Neolithic Lower Don culture, and continued the local tradition of pitted linear decoration, and clay bosses applied at the base of the neck.

Settlements of the Repin type were few and short-lived, whereas the ritual of individual burials under kurgans became more widespread, replacing big soil burial grounds. Settlements and burials point to a subsistence economy based on stockbreeding and nomadic or semi-nomadic way of life. The economic changes in Repin brought about a transformation in the social and spiritual sphere, too.

Its pottery is original, combining characteristic features of Eneolithic pottery, showing thus continuity in methods, technology, and morphology with neighbouring Volga–Ural (Khvalynsk – Samara) and Near Don (now inherited by Kvityana) areas, with demonstrated technical and technological continuity between Khvalynsk and Repin traditions.

Typologically, it comprises high vessels with profiled necks and spherical or flat bootms. Technologically, it included silt or clay containing silt, with an admixture of ground and shells and some organic solutions; vessels were made with the help of moulds, and their surface was smoothed and then decorated with comb stamps in different motifs.

At the end of the 5th and during the 4th millennium, the steppe region was characterised by dry climatic conditions worsening gradually, with short-term but violent floods in the Volga–Ural region, and the peak of aridity happening during the late Repin / early Yamna period in the mid–4th millennium BC.

Forest in the river alleys receded markedly, and semi-arid landscapes appeared in the areas with the lowest rainfall to the south of the Pontic lowlands. Steppe grass-cover changed and pastoral productivity fell by ca. 50–60% in the whole region, which must have affected all cultures of the area, benefitting more specialised and mobile types of animal husbandry.

In the fourth millennium, sheep–goat still dominated the domesticated animals of the north Pontic area (e.g. Mikhailovka I, Sredni Stog II, or Usatovo, all showing up to 60% of sheep–goat remains), and it probably also composed the majority of the diet (together with cattle) in the Don–Volga–Ural region.

Until 3500 BC, steppe populations were still largely hunters, gatherers and fishers who had herding as an adjunct to their foraging-centred economy. Unlike settlements to the west in the north Pontic area, cultivated cereals do not appear during the Eneolithic in the Don–Volga–Ural steppes, though.

The Repin culture, characterised by its cattle-breeding subsistence economy and semi-nomadic way of life, with much less reliance on hunting and fishing, must have emerged and spread benefitting from the expanding grasslands and retreating settlements of neighbouring cultures.

Extensive use of broad, unsettled (or abandoned) steppe areas with little access to water was facilitated by highly mobile groups, no doubt thanks to horse-aided herding and wagons, without which the rapid adaptation and improved economic performance of this regional group would be unimaginable.

Wagons revolutionised the pastoral economy by providing bulk transport for tents, water, and supplies in combination with horseback riding, for which there is clear contemporary evidence in the Botai culture.

Riding increased the number of animals a single herder could watch and control, and also improved a wagon-based mobile way of life. It is disputed whether wagons were also pulled by horses apart from bovines, though, because there is no direct evidence of the use of draft horses.

The widespread remains of burials and the rare finding of settlements, represented by seasonal camps of herders, starts in this period and continues into the late Repin / early Yamna stages. The eventual appearance of wagon parts in burials show a transition of a herding tool to a generalised symbol of a home in everyday life: by putting wheels (made of poplar especially for the occasion) in the corners of a burial, it turns into the last home on wheels for the dead. This also offers a potential explanation of how covered wagons—necessary for long travels—might have spread.

All modern domestic horses investigated to date only show ca. 2.7% of Botai-related ancestry, with Przewalski’s horses being feral descendants of Botai domesticates. This supports the existence of a different centre of domestication becoming the source of all modern domesticated horses, which incorporated minute amounts of Botai ancestry during their expansion.

Ancient specimens from Russia, Romania and Georgia show this ancestry, suggesting its expansion to the east and south before ca. 2000 BC. The most likely candidates for the expansion of the domesticated horse into Europe and Central Asia are therefore Yamna settlers from the Pontic–Caspian steppe.

The closest specimen found comes from Dunaujvarus, an East Bell Beaker site in Hungary, at the end of the 3rd millennium BC, which shows a contribution of ca. 39% of the branch ancestral to all horses, DOM2, apart from contributions form a source close to Iberian specimens.

The Dunaujvarus branch is more archaic than the branch found in two roughly contemporary Sintashta sites, which suggests that the origin of both branches were domesticates spread with Yamna.

The Dunaujvarus specimen also shows an archaic Y-chromosome lineage of horse domesticates, of haplotype Y-HT-3, shared with one of the Botai–Borly lineages, apart from specimens from Aldy Bel, Iron Age Estonia, Xiongnu, and Iron Age France, before further intense founder effects under a closely related lineage Y-HT-1 during succeeding periods. It also shows an mtDNA line shared with Botai samples, with a sample from Lebyazhinka IV, and with different Eurasian domesticates.

All this supports an origin of the expansion of DOM2 in late Repin–Yamna, and thus the presence of the ancestor of modern domesticated horses in late Khvalynsk–Repin. The genetic turnover identified in horses might be associated with the suitability of horses in Repin for long distance travel and warfare, rather than localised pastoral and hunting activity of Botai horses, possibly derived from earlier Khvalynsk domesticates.

The likely long-term specialisation based on selective breeding in late Khvalynsk/early Repin is compatible with the existence of horse domestication in the Don–Volga–Ural area since the Khvalynsk–Novodanilovka period.

The adaptation of Yamna horses to other environments, as well as the gene flow over long distances, is suggested by weak geographic patterns among long-range similarities between Europe and East Asia, and by the rapid expansion and development of certain breeds since the estimated time of domestication.

The late stage of the Repin culture, which showed its innovative corded decoration and bosses at the base of the neck, is the one associated with its expansionist trend, which must have begun probably after ca. 3500/3400 BC, and included settlers from the Middle Don migrating to the north into the Upper Don, southwest into the Dnieper region, and south, to the Lower Don and the Lower Volga.

In the Volga–Ural region, Repin features are found at transitory camps and burial mounds in the nearby Volga and Ural areas during the Middle and Late Eneolithic. These findings point to the Repin semi-nomadic culture diffusing into the Cis-Ural region with settlers. Morphometric studies have shown a potential infiltration from the Eneolithic Don–Volga steppes into the Volga Yamna population, while supporting homogeneity of Middle Volga populations during this period.

Other Middle Eneolithic regional groups like Khvalynsk, Atlantic, Toksk, and Turganik were possibly unified under the new expanding culture, at least in part through cultural diffusion, given the scattered Repin materials and settlements in the area before the synchronous emergence of early Yamna everywhere.

This continuity of the material culture—and probably in part of the population—in the eastern steppe could have been facilitated by the sharing of a common steppe habitat and close cultural ties since the Khvalynsk–Novodanilovka expansion, which might have smoothed the transition of local groups to the new steppe economy.

In the Middle Volga, regions which kept a traditional hunter-fisher economy even after the expansion of Khvalynsk–Novodanilovka witness the emergence of animal husbandry with cattle and sheep–goats and a productive economy, in combination with hunting and fishing, possibly influenced by the ‘push’ of the initial expansion of Repin.

So e.g. in the Lebyazhinka site in the Sok River (a tributary of the Samara river), with Lebyazhinka III (ca. 5200-4600 BC) compared to Lebyazhinka VI (ca. 4050–3700 BC), whose radiocarbon dates and specific domesticates, broadly related to the Middle and Lower Volga and to the North Caspian region, speak rather in favour of cultural diffusion of domestication to the region before the expansion of late Repin settlers.

The presence of regional traits in pottery (a diversity also present in the west), and especially the maintenance of a mainly sheep-herding economy (ca. 65% sheep–goat and only 15% cattle in grave sacrifices) in the Don–Volga–Ural and in the north Caucasian–Caspian early Yamna groups (Anthony 2016), contrasting with the prevalence of cattle herding among Repin settlers and to the west of the Don River (later continued in the Catacomb culture) further supports a limited colonisation wave in the east.

To the west, demographic pressure and migration seems to have been the main cause of the demise of local cultures. In the north Pontic region, this expansion is considered a true “colonisation”.

Their demographic impact is seen in the dramatic reduction in territorial extent of Kvityana and Deriïvka cultures, as well as in expanding Repin burial assemblages, with settlements and temporary camps appearing in the Donets basin, in the eastern Azov region, and becoming widely distributed towards the Dnieper.

The late phase of the Konstantinovka variant had continued on the Lower Don during the late Trypillian expansion, as evidenced by the sites of Konstantinovka and Razdorskoe, but with the expansion of Repin settlers the culture ceased to exist.

In the Kuban region, the local Novotitorovka culture emerged, preserving elements of the late Maikop culture. This culture features up to one in four graves with wagons or wagon parts (wooden wheel rims), possibly graves of blacksmiths, a custom common also in late north Pontic steppe cultures.

Further connections of the north Pontic area with the Caucasus and of Maikop with the steppe are seen in the imports of arsenical bronzes from Caucasus mines, as well as in the characteristic burials in stone cists beneath grave mounds in the Kemi Oba culture of Crimea featuring Maikop elements.

Contrasting with the characteristic adaptation of the Repin culture to a full pastoral economy, relying heavily on the exploitation of cattle and related secondary products, as well as on horse meat (up to 70% faunal remains in certain sites), north Pontic cultures had specialised throughout the 4th millennium BC in sedentary settlements relying mainly on wild animals, aquatic products, sheep–goat herding, and limited horse-related exploitation.

The shift to cattle herding is not detected in the Mikahilovka site, for example, until the emergence of the Yamna culture ca. 3100 BC, a radical adoption of a unique subsistence economy influenced neither by climate nor by environment, which supports cultural belief and economic drivers of new settlers as the main factors.

Eventually, the Pontic–Caspian steppes became unified under a common culture. The Repin expansion is rightfully considered by many researchers as the early stage of the Yamna culture.

It became culturally and chronologically associated to the synchronous appearance of the early Yamna horizon across the Pontic–Caspian steppes, from the Urals to the southern Buh, and this culture showed little connection to the cultures of the Azov–Black Sea steppes, which it eventually replaced ca. 3300–3000 BC.

All late Repin / early Yamna groups of the north Pontic area absorbed elements from pre-existing local Late Eneolithic formations, although there is a clear remarkably standardised, uniform burial ritual and material culture, opposed to the previous variability in the north Pontic area, which displayed e.g. cromlechs, orthostats, ditches, or sanctuaries in their burials. Similarly, in the Volga–Ural groups regional continuity is also apparent in pottery.

Earliest radiocarbon dates for the start of the early Yamna culture are ca. 3350/3300 BC in both the north Pontic and in the Volga–Ural regions, including the early graves with pottery of the Repin type, with the majority of dates in the north Pontic area lying in the span 3050–2300 BC, although chronologies vary widely in specific regions (Rassamakin and Nikolova 2008).

The earliest radiocarbon dated full-fledged Yamna-like kurgan burial appears precisely among kurgans of the Repin culture ca. 3300–3100 BC, in a region adjoining both the north Caucasian and Volga regions. The burial ritual continues in part the previous early Khvalynsk tradition of the Volga–Ural area, but with modifications.

Individuals were buried lying on organic mats in grave pits beneath kurgans. Each kurgan contained only one to three individuals, rarely including children, and most graves include adult males, so the majority of the population was excluded from kurgan ceremonies, and we don’t know what happened with their bodies after death. Nevertheless, regional differences exist, and the Kuban–northern Caucasus region, for example, shows more children and female burials.

The survival of Repin traditions on the Lower Don and Middle Volga regions, which gave these early Yamna groups a more archaic appearance (in the so-called Gorodtsov type), further supports that migrations from this area were the origin of early Yamna settlers in the north Pontic area.

The western region shows the incorporation of foreign elements, such as the characteristic burials with wagons, assemblages including small hammer-shaped pins (rooted in earlier Repin pins), and anthropomorphic stelae (a tradition proper of the earlier and contemporaneous Lower Don–Southern Buh steppe territories).

These features are absent from the Volga and eastern regions, as are the impressive stratified kurgans, crammed with burials, typical of the Lower Don–Southern Buh territory.

A Common or Classic Indo-European community must have developed during the period of close interaction between late Khvalynsk/early Repin cultures, before the expansion of late Repin/early Yamna caused the divergence evidenced in the Disintegrating Indo-European stage.

Based on the ancestry found in Afanasevo individuals (Wang et al. 2019), the population from the late Eneolithic Don–Volga–Ural area probably had a quite homogeneous fully Steppe-like admixture before the colonisation of the north Pontic area.

The split of R1b1a1b1-L23 (TMRCA ca. 4100 BC) into western R1b1a1b1a-L51 (TMRCA ca. 3700 BC) and eastern R1b1a1b1b-Z2103 lineages (TMRCA ca. 3600 BC, the same for R1b1a1b1b3-Z2106) probably happened early, most likely during the expansion of Khvalynsk clans in the early Eneolithic, which is supported by the disappearance of hg.

R1b1a2-V1636 from the region (although it appears in one Yamna individual from the Caucasus), reinforcing in turn the concept of a unification of the Don–Volga–Ural region under a single Indo-Anatolian dialect, Common Indo-European, through demic diffusion.

The later successful expansion of R1b1a1b1-L23 subclades, with R1b1a1b1b-Z2103 slightly later than R1b1a1b1a-L51, as well as the prevalent R1b1a1b1b-Z2103 lineages found in eastern Yamna samples and Afanasevo, support the presence of R1b1a1b1a-L51 lineages mainly in the western Don–Volga area, possibly as the majority haplogroup of late Repin.

The expansion of the late Repin culture (and later emergence of early Yamna) in the Volga–Ural region was probably then a cultural rather than demic diffusion over populations already genetically and culturally similar.

One Yamna sample from Lopatino II (ca. 3000 BC), possibly of haplogroup R1b1a1b1-L23 (Y410+, L51-)+, may be thus intermediate between R1b1a1b1-L23 and subclade R1b1a1b1a-L51. The fact that Lopatino II is part of a late Repin kurgan site in the Samara region points to some demic diffusion of Repin clans of R1b1a1b1a-L51 lineages to the east.

Further R1b1a1b1a-L51 samples have been reported from central and south Asian sites (Narasimhan et al. 2018), although their actual haplogroups remain dubious. The majority of R1b1a1b1b-Z2103 lineages found to date in the Volga–Ural area, as well as their presence in the Balkans and among western Yamna settlers, points to its original presence probably among Repin settlers of the Middle Don region, too.

This extension of eastern lineages in the Don–Volga–Ural area and genetic homogeneity of the current samples do not let for the moment distinguish the ‘Northern’ Indo-European community—speaking the dialect ancestral to North-West Indo-European and Tocharian—from the ‘Southern’ or Graeco-Aryan one—speaking the dialect ancestral to Balkan and Indo-Iranian proto-languages.

The cultural division between a western Don–Volga early-to-late Repin culture opposed to an eastern Volga–Ural late Khvalynsk and Samaran cultures before the emergence of early Yamna may be tentatively used to identify a western community of ‘Northern’ dialect, and an eastern community of ‘Southern’ one, which is also consistent with the earlier separation of the Northern community and the continued innovations shown by the Southern group.

North Pontic region

From about 3100 BC and for the next two to three centuries, GAC communities migrated from the Vistula River drainage basin into the area between the Carpathians and the Dnieper, more thoroughly than any of their central European predecessors: they crossed to the eastern bank of the Dnieper, they appeared in the Carpathian basin, and they came into close contact (probably ‘face to face’) with communities of the Yamna culture (Szmyt 2013).

GAC appeared into the forest-steppe and steppe zone west of the Dnieper ca. 3000–2900 BC, including areas between the Southern Buh and Sinyukha rivers, on the Inhul River, and also on the Dniester–Danube region. At the same time, the Trypillia culture was disintegrating into many regional groups in the forest-steppe and southern forest region between the Prut and the Dnieper (see §V.6. North Pontic area). Close interaction in this area is evidenced by mixed grave inventories in at least two parts of the north-western Pontic area, namely the Middle Dnieper and the Siret–Prut–Dniester area, with Yamna settlements showing atypical clay vessels more or less corresponding to GAC style (Szmyt 2013).

Nevertheless, even in the zone of greater migration exchange along the Prut, it is usually possible to draw a line separating the distribution of synchronous settlements, e.g. with GAC settlements occupying territories west of the area, between the Prut and Siret rivers, and Yamna occupying their eastern bank, between the Prut and Dniester. In the steppe zone, contacts in form of adopted pottery ornamentation by Yamna settlers are still less clear, which supports a clear differentiation of both groups (Szmyt 2013).

After 3000–2900 BC, the majority of pit–graves west of the Black Sea belong to the domination and assimilation of peoples characterised by the Yamna funeral standard (Figure 27), in which the buried—both primary and secondary—were lying supine with the legs bent up in the knees, usually orientated on the west–east direction, in rectangular or sometimes chamber-like grave–pits covered by wooden beams. Poor inventories are the rule (contrasting with previous north Pontic steppe cultures, see IV.2.3. Kurgans), and spiral silver hair rings are the most defining items. Male burials are prevalent, and ochre staining or deposition of lumps is common. Pottery of local origin is rarer than before, and when it appears it is represented by cord-decorated beaker vessels, such as in Coţofeni III pottery ca. 3000–2800 BC (Frînculeasa, Preda, and Heyd 2015). During this late phase, Yamna appears firmly settled in the forest-steppe further north, where they were previously only occasionally found. Larger bands are therefore seen expanding in all directions (Suppl. Fig. 9).

Most Yamna burials in the west Pontic area have radiocarbon dates ca. 2880–2580 BC. Only a small proportion of sites at the Lower Danube shows later dates, with a dilution of the wider Pit-Grave phenomenon. This third stage of pit–graves shows a re-appearance of individuals buried contracted to the side or in extended body position as secondary burials in the mounds. This trend appeared perhaps under the influence of the Catacomb Grave culture or further to the east, or locally at the Lower Danube. This is a period when southeast and central European cultures like Coţofeni, Baden, Ezero A, Globular Amphora and TRB communities were transforming and splitting into successive archaeological cultures, such as Glina, Schneckenberg, Livezile, Makó/Kosihý–Čaka, Ezero B, or Corded Ware proper (Frînculeasa, Preda, and Heyd 2015).

The beginning of the western early Yamna complex is linked to the arrival of a novel set of deeply interlinked social, economic, and ideological innovations. Its five components (Figure 28) play the crucial roles, one due to the next (Frînculeasa, Preda, and Heyd 2015):

1.       Subsistence economy based on specialised breeding and herding of cattle only, which leads to the increased use of secondary products in which milk and overall protein-enriched diet supplemented by game and fish (and very low ratio of starch and carbohydrates, as seen in neglectable caries frequency) have an importance in subsequent changes in peoples’ physical appearance and stature (with old anthropometric studies showing that they might have been some inches taller in average than their neighbours).

2.       This new economy triggers a higher human mobility: the overall westward migration is a consequence of the ever-lasting search for green pastures for their stock. This mobility may have increased the exchange network, forwarding technical innovations like ‘Caucasian metallurgy’ of shaft–hole axes, tanged daggers, and previous metal hair rings.

3.       Both the new economy and mobility triggered a novel way-of-life, with different land uses and understanding of territory. Peoples become true pastoralists leading a highly mobile way of life, and some segments become true nomads, which alters the social organisation and thus norms, morale, values, symbols and terms, altering the Weltanschauung and ideology, as well as religion, which become tradition.

4.       A pit–grave under a kurgan becomes a standard in the Yamna custom-set, with its homogenisation reflecting the emerging unifying social norms. Its powerful symbolism is seen as a high landmark, the ‘pyramids of the steppe’, a monumental and dominant architectural element over ancestor graves (quasi-temples) in an otherwise flat and monotonous ‘sea of grass’, creating real or virtual ancestry and lineage, and being a sign of possession, and probably claiming territory, as well as delineating the oecumenes of pastoral groups, forming orientation points on the transhumance routes.

5.       One key technological innovation made all this possible: the widespread acceptance of the transport complex of wheel and wagon, allowing herders to enter and exploit the deep waterless steppes (the largest part of the steppes) for their stock animals. It also allowed pastoralists to live in these regions with their families for the longer part of the year, with all their possessions, without the need to keep a base-camp close to a water course.

East-central European lowlands

Yamna settlements spread initially west- and southward into the Danube valley. A real current of immigration is noticed from ca. 2950 BC, being the first primary example of large-scale migration in later prehistory, with foreign people flooding over east and east-central European lowlands. More than 500 tumuli and more than 1000 graves have been already studied in this area (Heyd 2012).

A rapid decline in human activities peaked in Central Europe between 4000–3000 BC and recovered only after 3000 BC, accelerating after 2500 BC. This decline has been related to adaptation processes during climatic changes (Kolář et al. 2016; Gardner 2002) – which might have helped the expansion of Yamna settlers into scarcely populated areas closer to a more Atlantic-dominated climate zone.

The area recovered after 3000 BC with a more humid climate that favoured grassland productivity (Harrison and Heyd 2007), at the same time as the horse, the wheel, and pastoralist societies expanded into these areas. Their migration seems not to have been a traumatic event. There might have been local conflicts and raids, but there are signs of interaction with contemporary societies, as well as exchange of ideas, innovations and material culture (Heyd 2012).

The main settlement areas of west Yamna migrants were confined to the steppe habitat, and therefore Yamna settlers (initially) did not occupy, push away, or expel locally settled farming societies. West Yamna tumuli are radiocarbon dated ca. 3000–2500 BC (3100/2900–2500/2475 cal. BC), and contacts with other archaeological cultures confirm that they belong to the first half of the 4th millennium. Distinct from the close contacts between south-eastern European steppes and Pontic–Caspian steppes from earlier periods, it is quite likely that the “infiltration” of small Yamna migrants had begun in the decades, even centuries before the real current of immigration, i.e. at the end of the 4th millennium, as an extension of the north Pontic roaming area (Frînculeasa, Preda, and Heyd 2015).

The massive Yamna migration in south-east Europe is said to have been well organised, either in loose family alliances (the most likely scenario) or in clans, in any case with a clear leadership and structure (Heyd 2012). There was possibly more than one wave of migrations, with cultural differences noted north and south of the Balkans. At least one migration wave seems to have come from the north Pontic steppes, due to the presence of wagons (or parts of wagons) and stelae—characteristic of the Kemi-Oba and neighbouring zones of the Southern Buh–Lower Don steppe—in burial mound cemeteries of Yamna settlements (Kaiser and Winger 2015).

Important settlement areas included (Heyd 2011):

·         The first large concentration of Yamna tumuli and burials appeared in the grass and bush-land typical of the steppe-like vegetation and environment, continuous from the north Pontic to the west Pontic area, up to the Dobruja (south of the Danube delta) and north-east Bulgaria.

·         The second large concentration, the Tarnava-Rast group, appeared to the west in south-western Romania, on the plains and terraces divided by the lower Danube River. Migrants pushed west, appearing west of the Iron Gates in Jabuke, but the largest number of migrants ended up in the central Carpathian basin.

·         Another province was formed  by the Upper Thracian Plains south of the Varna Bay, in the Balkan uplands (Kovachevo-Troyanovo), within the region of the Ezero culture (Anthony 2007). It is more influenced by the Mediterranean, and tumuli are widespread, especially in the area between the Maritza and Tundza rivers.

·         The Prut–Siret region of well-drained hill and flatlands show tumuli and burials backing onto the eastern Carpathians, in a number smaller than most other western provinces. More than distant nomadic settlements, these settlers formed part of a much wider, expanding Yamna group that was originally located further to the east and north-east. This is reflected by the gradually increasing number of tumuli and graves up to their source territories in the Dniester River and the north Pontic steppe

The westernmost group, third in size, lies in the Great Hungarian Plain or Great Alföld, in the central Carpathian Basin, a grassland plain mainly located north and east of the Danube, mainly east of the Tisza River. It covers 50,000 km2 in Hungary, but reaches also neighbouring modern countries, e.g. Croatia, Serbia and Romania with the regions of Banat and Transylvania forming part of it. The core area of these lowlands is the Hungarian Puszta (‘plain’), and Yamna tumuli and burials (Figure 29) are spread all over it, with the largest concentration located in the steppe areas neighbouring the Tisza River. There were originally around 40,000 kurgans in Hungary, but a more recent estimate suggests that there are today less than 2,000 left (Suppl. Fig. 10.A).

Based on the distribution map of kurgans, burials are densest where there were no Boleráz or Baden occupations, although they partially overlapped. Boleráz–Baden groups represented settled, agriculturalist, indigenous groups, while Yamna formed small animal-keeping mobile groups. Where they appear at the same time, the kurgan is always situated on top of a settlement, indicating that they followed Baden and represented a somewhat higher social power and belief system. Apart from burials, no Yamna settlements are known in Hungary, so it is unknown whether they were situated close to the kurgans or somewhere else entirely (Horváth 2016).

Most kurgans are located on the plains, and a smaller portion appear in neighbouring hills and mountains, while in unfavourable areas of sand dunes (Nyírség Region, Danube–Tisza interfluve) kurgans are virtually absent. The highest density of mounds appear in alluvial and loess plains rich in active and abandoned river channels, usually on natural levees, sometimes concentrated along streams forming small or large clusters. Their distribution usually follows a curved line, and vertically mounds usually appear above a certain elevation corresponding to flood-free levees and small aeolian dunes (Tóth, Joó, and Barczi 2015).

In contrast to their compatriots around the Lower Danube and Moldavia, settlers from the Carpathian Basin applied reed mats, textiles, leather, and even furs (possibly even felt and carpets) for the pit walls and floors, and these have been documented outside the grave pit. These colourful decorations – despite the poorly furnished graves and generalized lack of accompanying grave gifts – must have played a distinct role in the Yamna society, as well as the importance of colour combinations and pattern as emplematic and symbolic signs based on associations. Burial chambers prepared in this way were covered with wooden beams, planks, or logs, reminiscent of the few cases in Bulgaria and Romania which show big stone slabs covering the grave pit. All of this is compatible with the importance of the domus-idea, as are additional wooden posts, stone frames, and fireplaces or hearths attached (Heyd 2011).

Sizeable concentrations of tumuli are found in steppe areas around the Middle and Upper Danube and its tributaries—such as the 8,000 km2 wide Little Hungarian Plain (or Little Alföld)—as well as in neighbouring forest-steppe regions close to the Danube, representing a gradual adaptation of Yamna settlers to the forest-steppe region (Horváth et al. 2013; Horváth 2016). Some distant settlements to the west show strong hints of the Yamna culture, such as concentration of tumuli, elements of Yamna burial customs, anthropomorphic statue-stelae, and artefacts with eastern links or origins. These groups include, for example, the north/north-central Middle Elbe–Saale area of east Germany with steppe vegetations, in the shadow of the Harz mountains,  or a stripe in the foreland along the east Carpathians and southeast Poland, the border between Romania, the Ukraine, and Poland (Heyd 2011).

Many neighbouring regions with similar environment and landscape are thought to have been likely targets of that westward Yamna migration, although they have not yet yielded archaeological records, such as Black Sea shores of Bulgaria, East Thrace, modern Turkey, and northeast Greece south of the Rhodopes mountains. Interesting are the isolated findings of Yamna material culture in Corded Ware territory to the north (Bátora 2006), probably representing trade contacts or vanguard settlements (Figure 30) before the evolution into (and explosive expansion of) Bell Beakers.

An interesting finding is the discovery of a Yamna-like kurgan in Valencina de la Concepción, in southern Iberia (ca. 2875 BC), below which was the body of a man buried with a dagger and Yamna-like sandals, and decorated with red pigment just as Yamna dead were[14]. This suggests that the ideology, lifestyle and death rituals of the Yamna could run far ahead of migrants. The distribution of Yamna findings along the Danube, in central Germany, and up to Chalcolithic Iberia (Suppl. Fig. 10.B) before the emergence of East Bell Beakers—whose emergence happened roughly around the same areas (see below §VII.7.2. East Bell Beaker group)—suggests a complex framework of vanguard settlements and intense exchange contacts in central Europe.

Different from all these attested or supposed Yamna territories are some early samples of tumuli of mixed culture (e.g. those including cremation, or foreign material culture, or avoiding certain typical Yamna rites), which may point to Yamna influence on adjacent territories or local ‘kurgan’ cultures extant from the evolution of the previous Suvorovo–Novodanilovka expansion (see §IV.2. Khvalynsk–Novodanilovka).

Remains including a Coţofeni vessel from a Yamna grave in the Dniester (dating to the beginning of the Yamna migrations), and a typical Makó handled pot from Sofievka on the left side of the Dnieper (dating to the mid–3rd millennium) point to Yamna settlements closely connected to the core Yamna territory, thus considered an extension of their normal roaming area, and keeping a close contact among different groups (Heyd 2011).

Close contacts with adjacent cultures can also be seen in the Hungarian group, where for example herders from the Lizevile group in Transylvania seem to have used and economic model of transhumance, with livestock passing the winter and spring in the milder regions of the Great Hungarian Plain, as revealed by certain foreign tumuli in Yamna territory. Such regular visits increased the likelihood of these transhumant herders becoming integrated locally, and during the second quarter of the third millennium the internal coherence of the Yamna ideology had already diminished, which allowed other Lizevile and other herders to step in and take over locally, initially on a seasonal basis, and then permanently (Gerling et al. 2012).

The Yamna package

The so-called “Yamna package”[15] (Figure 31) includes eleven components common to the initial western migrants (Harrison and Heyd 2007):

A) The social sphere:

1.       The most important and visible is the round barrow as a personalised monument. Emblematic symbolic signs based on associations, using patterns and colourful decorations, often combining two or more different colours, apart from reed mats, textiles, leather, and even furs for the pit walls and floors, even outside the grave pit, and possibly felt and carpets. Burial chambers are then covered with wooden beams, planks, or logs. These are often combined in Bulgarian and Romanian groups with an anthropomorphic stela covering the grave pit (none are known from Serbia or Hungary). All this reinforces the importance of the domus-idea of the tumuli.

2.       The single burial with a typical supine position on its back with flexed legs, usually upright (possibly to the side or in frog-position after a process of decay), often covered in red ochre, in a deep rectangular pit. The most common orientation of pits and skeletons is east–west, with heads in the west, but other directions are also attested.

3.       Social position and gender are systematically marked. Most burials are of adult males, and their percentage is higher in primary graves (so probably very much a masculine society). The wooden wagon marks an elevated social position in the north Pontic area; however, typical of west Yamna migrants are the poorly furnished graves and the general lack of accompanying grave gifts (with complete absence of weaponry and tools). The social expression in west Yamna is thus not manifested in grave goods, but firstly in the labour and communal exertion to erect a tumulus, and secondarily in the efforts to create a burial chamber, the new house of the dead.

4.       The creation of a special status for craftsmen (especially metalworkers), especially widespread in the north Pontic region and western migrants. For the first time, metallurgists had a specific social status. The development of the so-called Circum-Pontic Metallurgical Province is also associated with the spread of Yamna—taking over the previous north Pontic industry (see §IV.3.1. Metalworking)—including the wide distribution of new methods of copper and arsenical bronze metallurgy, and a set of bronze objects.

5.       Hoarding metal objects begins again in steppe cultures, with hoards of shaft–hole axes. Furthermore, the deposition of lumps of ochre in the graves and the fewer secondary burials cut into existing tumuli are typical of the Carpathian basin. This is useful when distinguishing Yamna burials of the Carpathian group from those on the lower Danube and the Prut.

B) The technological sphere:

6.       Re-establishment of metallurgy of gold and copper, following a long decline after 3500 BC, but with a different technology of smelting, working and casting in two-piece stone moulds, or ‘Caucasian metallurgy’ (Sherratt 2004).

7.       New weapon designs in copper: the single-edged shaft–hole axe, and the tanged metal dagger.

C) The economic sphere:

8.       The domesticated horse features importantly in a dedicated pastoral economy which raises herds of cattle, and perhaps flocks of sheep for wool. Domesticated horse is documented since the EBA on both sides of the Carpathians from bone cheek-pieces, both as transport and as traction animals (Boroffka 2013).

9.       Wooden wagons placed in graves as social markers; the westernmost example is the ox-pulled wagon grave of Placidol in northern Bulgaria.

10.    The custom of using simple golden, electrum or silver hair rings, a distinctive bone toggle, and decorated bone discs, whose distribution covers all regions of western Yamna. Common adornments are also necklaces and chains of beads or perforated teeth.

11.    Widespread use of cord decoration on pottery; the common cross-footed bowls copy models on the eastern Pontic steppes.

The use of pottery in western Yamna points to the import from neighbouring archaeological cultures, such as Coţofeni III vessels in Tarnava; Cernavodă II vessels in the lower Danube; Vučedol-like vessels in Romania and Bulgaria; and Makó and Lizevile-like vessels in Hungary. Most ‘original’ Yamna vessels include cord-impression techniques, and especially interesting is the classical beaker-like vessel widely distributed in the western regions, as well as the recurring decoration motif of triangles, fringes, or long triangles intermingled with each other, a specific decoration known from the north Pontic area (Heyd 2011).

Animals bones found next to the burial chamber, or part of the meals consumed during the ceremonies found around or on top of the graves, include dogs, sheep–goats, cattle, and horses (which hint at their relevance in the Yamna subsistence economy), and also hunted animals such as deer and birds (Heyd 2011). An important part of the industry related to pastoralism was the production of leather and wool. Examples are found, apart from western settlers, in Kalmykia, where wool and leather are widely used for the production of underlay, pillows, and clothes, with weaving skills showing up in good quality mats; or in Mikhailovka II-III, which shows a high level of leather production, as well as ceramic spindle whorls and weights. Based on scarce findings from Eneolithic steppe cultures, and on the analysis of Khvalynsk posttery ornamented with imprints of textile goods, Yamna findings likely show ultimately a great degree of continuity of an ancestral tradition (Morgunova and Turetskij 2016).

The interaction with previous cultures from south-east Europe may have been resolved in different ways, either violent confrontation, peaceful interaction, or neutral ignorance of each other. Since Yamna settlers occupied the steppe habitat, most economically important territories from neighbouring cultures would have been spared, at least initially, triggering mostly cultural interaction. However, communities derived from the small Suvorovo–Novodanilovka groups that settled the region may have entered into direct contact, which would have been resolved either violently or, perhaps, with rapid assimilation due to the similar economic/social background with comparable lifestyles (Heyd 2011).

Violence and raids must have been present with neighbouring cultures, though, and perhaps the building of a defence-like chain of hill forts along the south shore of the Danube by the Vučedol culture points to such contacts, although this is not the only interpretation possible. On a wider scale, the expansion of the Yamna culture begins a true horizon of transformation and cultural change in many European regions (Harrison and Heyd 2007).

Volga–Ural region

Unlike western Yamna, where cattle dominates the diet and funerary rites, eastern Yamna in the Volga–Ural and in the northern Caucasian–northern Caspian steppes show a subsistence economy continuing the previous period, based on mainly sheep–goat and (less prominently) cattle, based on remains found in grave sacrifices (Shishlina 2008). The early Volga–Ural Yamna culture is represented by some settlements, small kurgans (ca. 20–25 m in diameter), and Repin-type pottery. The classical or developed phase is represented by the “unification of the funeral ritual, round bottomed pottery, the disappearance of settlements, and the prevalence of wheeled transport” (Morgunova 2002).

Differences between Yamna culture of the Volga–Ural interfluve and west Yamna groups are observed at both the social and economic levels. The traditional development of hereditary social strata in the Volga–Ural region was increasingly based on specific regional developments, such as the common interest in supply of metal objects and wooden products of cattle farming groups, which contributed to greater mobility of the nomadic pastoral population (Morgunova and Fayzullin 2018).

Such specialised production made it possible to raise the prestige of a given activity and individuals producing the necessary vehicles, tools, and weapons. The role of priests and producers (carpenters, blacksmiths) stands out by their unconventional burial rite: isolated skull burials and dismembered sacrifices the former, weapons and tools the latter, as in middle-aged men’s burials accompanied by sets of tools for woodworking (axe, adze, big knife, gouge, pin, chisel) in some barrows of the Orenburg oblast. The lack of specific warrior burials points to the likely participation of the whole adult society in battles (Morgunova and Fayzullin 2018).

The construction of monumental kurgans with rich assemblages—such as those of Utevka I, Bodyrevo IV or Krasnosamarskoe IV, or the individual kurgans of Shumaevo II, Kalmytskaya Shishka, Dedurovskiy Mar—support the existence of ruling leaders among the elite, an aristocracy capable of: controlling competition (or supporting alliances) regarding territory, water resources, or raw materials; guiding the tribes; unifying their ritual and promoting the erection of sacred places; and enabling the expansion of homogeneous cultural elements through a huge territory. These elites probably concentrated economic–administrative, military, and religious functions under their charismatic leadership, which would become hereditary, evidenced by the presence of children burials among a majority of adult male elite burials (Morgunova and Fayzullin 2018).

The material culture of the Volga–Ural region (Figure 32) shows a clear connection with that of further eastern groups, including Afanasevo in the Altai region. This connection is evidenced by pieces of copper-containing sandstone from the southern Urals. A Yamna miner was buried in a mining pit ca. 3000 BC in the Kargaly copper ore field, located beyond the headwaters of the Samara River, in south-eastern Kazakhstan. Substantial deforestation near the ore field suggest large-scale copper-ore mining in the Kargaly area, with important mining and smelting operations during the early Yamna period (Parzinger 2013), incrementing in later periods.

Disintegrating Indo-Europeans

Yamna samples had been described as being mainly composed of EHG:CHG ancestry (Jones et al. 2015; Lazaridis et al. 2016). Nevertheless, based on the ancestry of Afanasevo samples without EEF, and on later Yamna samples with EEF contributions, the late Repin expansion to the north Pontic area must have caused a mean EEF increase of ca. 15% to their typical Steppe ancestry inherited from the Khvalynsk–Novodanilovka expansion, varying from a minimum in the east (ca. 13%) to a maximum in the west in Hungary (ca. 17%), with intergroup differences not statistically significant (Suppl. Graph. 7). Further external contributions are found from a source related to Eneolithic Caucasus individuals in Yamna samples from the northern Caucasus (ca. 2900–2400 BC), and especially in a Yamna outlier from Ozera in the north Pontic area (ca. 40%), apart from later Catacomb samples from the same area (Wang et al. 2019), which support admixture with locals through exogamy.

The EEF ancestry found in Yamna points to a mix of NWAN (ca. 80%) and WHG (ca. 20%), and groups as distant from each other as Globular Amphora and Iberian Chalcolithic work as proximate surrogate populations for this kind of contribution (Wang et al. 2019). A similar ancestry may probably be found in Middle and Late Neolithic farmer groups from east-central Europe, such as Funnel Beaker and other post-LBK groups near the Balkans, and perhaps certain late Trypillian groups of the north Pontic forests, based on their close interaction with TRB—although samples from the Verteba cave have shown more EHG contribution (see §v.6. Late Uralians). EEF ancestry is also found elevated in Corded Ware samples, possibly up to 50% in certain groups (Wang et al. 2019), with a great part probably due to north Pontic-related Eneolithic interactions.

Compared to the Eneolithic Volga–Ural population, which had probably little or no EEF ancestry, the appearance of this ancestry in Yamna suggests thus an admixture of expanding late Repin groups from the Middle Don with Eneolithic populations of the north Pontic steppe and forest-steppe areas, which are also the likely source (or one of the main sources) of this ancestry found later in Corded Ware migrants. This admixture was probably driven by exogamy during the expansion of the late Repin strict patrilineal society, dominated by male elites, evidenced by the expansion of an overwhelming majority of R1b1a1b1-L23 lineages with Yamna. This is supported by the finding of late Sredni Stog samples as one of the best proxy populations (together with GAC and Iberia Chalcolithic samples) for the extra EEF ancestry found among Yamna peoples[16]. On the other hand, the homogenisation of this new EEF ancestry among all Yamna peoples—with no statistically significant differences between groups with the current number of samples—supports additional intense contacts and “internal exogamy” between Yamna clans of both western and eastern groups, and potentially also the expansion of ‘admixed’ late Repin settlers to the east.

The eastern Yamna or Volga–Ural–North Caucasian group includes the Volga–Ural variant between the Volga and Ural rivers (with Lower Volga, Middle Volga, and Ural regions), and the North Caucasus variant (right bank of the Volga River region, Kalmykia, and northern Caucasus steppes until the Terek River). Among the dialects spoken in this region was probably the ancestor of Indo-Iranian. Most reported Y-chromosome haplogroups of Yamna samples are from sites in Samara, Kalmykia, and northern Caucasus areas ca. 3100–2500 BC (Haak et al. 2015; Allentoft et al. 2015; Mathieson et al. 2015; Wang et al. 2019): sixteen out of eighteen are of haplogroup R1b1a1b1-L23, with further reported subclades mainly from the R1b1a1b1b-Z2103 trunk, except one sample from Lopatino II, in the R1b1a1b1a-L51 line (see §v.7. Common Indo-Europeans). A sample from Karagash in Kazakhstan, of subclade R1b1a1b1b3-Z2106 (de Barros Damgaard, Marchi, et al. 2018), further supports the connection of eastern Yamna groups of the southern Urals with Afanasevo.

The western Yamna or Southern Buh–Lower Don group included the Don River variant (Lower Don from the Ilovlya River to the mouth of the Don River and valley of the Western Manych River); the Siverskyi Donets variant (right bank of the Siverskyi Donets River between modern Kharkiv and Luhansk cities); the Azov variant (steppe of the Northern Azov Sea coast); the Crimea variant; the Lower Dnieper variant (from the Orel River and the Inhulets River to the Black Sea coast) with the Bilozirka, Nikopol, Kryvyi Rih, Dnieper “Stone stream”, Left Bank of the Dnieper, and Black Sea coast regions; the North-Western variant (steppe and forest-steppe borderland on the Middle Dnieper and to the west from it), and the South-Western Variant (between the Buh and Danube rivers).

Local groups of the north Pontic steppe include the Donetsk group, the Middle Dnieper group, the Lower Dnieper and the Azov–Crimea groups, and the Southern Buh group. The kurgans between the Dniester and the Prut Rivers received influences from the main neighbouring regions—such as EBA of central and south-east Europe, Globular Amphora, and Corded Ware, Foltești 2 and Coţofeni cultures—and two cultural-chronological variants are described: the Early Dniester variant, and the Late Budzhak variant (Rassamakin and Nikolova 2008).

Western Yamna and Danube groups probably spoke the ancestral language to both North-West Indo-European and Palaeo-Balkan languages. While there is scarce data on Y-chromosome haplogroups, based on later European samples it is very likely that these territories hosted R1b1a1b1a-L51 subclades—in particular R1b1a1b1a1a-L151 (TMRCA ca. 2800 BC)—whose lineages are found centuries later spreading with East Bell Beakers (see §vii.7. North-West Indo-Europeans), and were probably in the majority among Pre-North-West Indo-European-speakers. It is also likely that West Yamna hosted R1b1a1b1b-Z2103 lineages, probably associated mainly with Palaeo-Balkan-speaking clans.

Two samples show I2a1b1a2a2a-L699 lineages (formed ca. 6800 BC, TMRCA ca. 4500 BC, one in Kalmykia and one in Bulgaria (an outlier with contributions from NWAN-related ancestry), which supports the presence of this lineage among certain Yamna clans (Mathieson et al. 2018). Similarly, the presence of R1b1a1b-M269 subclade R1b1a1b2-PF7562 among modern populations in the Balkans, Central Europe, Anatolia, and the Caucasus (Myres et al. 2011; Herrera et al. 2012), speaks in favour of clans of this lineage also expanding with late Repin/early Yamna settlers, or potentially of remnant populations of the earlier Suvorovo–Novodanilovka migrations who were part of (or pushed by) expanding Yamna settlers. The finding of hg. R1b1a2-V1636 in Sharakhalsun (ca. 2780 BC) may also suggest that this lineage expanded with Yamna, or alternatively that it belonged to a remnant population of Maikop in the Northern Caucasus Piedmont eventually integrated in Repin or Yamna (see above §v.2. Early Caucasians).

The migration of Yamna settlers into Hungary appears to be homogeneous at first, with early samples clustering closely to other west Yamna samples. Two late samples from Hungary show already increased EEF ancestry (ca. 10% more than Yamna, with a close source for this ancestry found probably in neighbouring Baden-like Hungarian samples), at the same time as Catacomb individuals also received further EEF-related contributions (probably from the north Pontic area), whereas a late Yamna sampleshows no marked change, and Poltavka shows even less EEF ancestry than preceding eastern groups (Wang et al. 2018). This evolution ca. 3100–2500 BC suggests an initial homogeneous expansion, where Yamna clans either kept close contacts with other steppe clans or displayed little exogamy practices with the local groups they encountered; and a later gradual regional isolation, including interaction and admixture with different local groups.

The Transformation of Europe

The so-called “Transformation of Europe” should probably be described as continuing the expansion of the ‘steppe package’ into western Europe, with expanding European cultures (such as northern European Globular Amphora or Corded Ware cultures, Balkan cultures like Makó/Kosihý–Čaka /Somogyvár) which share common traits (Heyd 2011):

·         An essential individualisation in burial ritual, up to individual graves: in wide parts from north-west and west Europe this is associated with the megalithic world, and—still in collective graves—the appearance of individualising marks and personal possessions.

·         Mound building as personal memorial over individual graves.

·         Gender separation, not only in specific rituals, but also in gender-specific offerings.

·         Monumental anthropomorphic stone stelae, appearing first during the Middle Eneolithic in Lower Mikhailovka I, but later widespread in a transect from east to west Europe, from the Kemi-Oba group (succeeding Lower Mikhailovka around Crimea) to Iberia, and being especially relevant in northern Italy and southern France.

·         Internationalisation of certain goods, visible e.g. in the Grand Pressigny daggers.

·         Symbolic prestige and status objects, also represented in stelae, like copper Remedello daggers and double spirals.

·         Assignment of value to flint items according to the raw material they are made of (viz. valorisation of axes made of banded flint in GAC, flints for production of axes in CWC, spread of blade daggers of Grand Pressigny flint in western Europe, etc.).

·         Differences in technological advances in the Final Eneolithic become smaller between regions and within them (compared with the production of sophisticated tools by specialised craftsmen in earlier phases).

Reasons for this transformation—as evidenced by the steppe origin of these cultural traits—lie in the reaction of central and western Europe to the expanding economic innovations from the south-east (during the second half of the 4th millennium), associated with the further expansion of the “Secondary Products Revolution”, which involves the introduction of the wheel and wagon, plough, sheep wool, and probably also alcoholic beverages, first for the elites, then also to the whole agrarian population. Another reason could have been the influence of Aegean EBA cultures and their intensifying networks of communication, exchange, and even commerce (Heyd 2011).

However, the most important reason for this successful widespread adoption over almost all Europe (especially regarding late influences) must have been the irruption of thousands of Yamna migrants after 3100/3000 BC into the Carpathian Basin, which triggered a ‘domino effect’ in northern and central Europe, expanding further with CWC, GAC, Baden, and other central and west European cultures in contact with the new immigrants. For example, flint daggers – replacing copper daggers in the mid–4th millennium – reached the whole Balkans, the Aegean and Anatolia in the first quarter of the 3rd millennium (Heyd 2011).


Western Yamna tumuli were not the first to be erected in their settlement areas (see §V.4. Steppe package), but they represent the first real wave of standardised tumulus construction. In neighbouring cultures, sometimes from distant regions, round personalised tumuli emerge. Five areas can be listed around the actual Yamna distribution (Heyd 2011):

·         East Banat and west/south-west Transylvania. Tumuli are small and low, stones are used in their construction, and culturally they belong to late Coţofeni and successive cultures such as Lizevile in the west, Șoimuș in the south-west. In other parts of Transylvania, tumuli are constructed as well.

·         East-Slovakian burial mounds are ca. 350 tumuli found in the Carpathians of east Slovakia, showing an amalgam of an inner Carpathian culture and Corded Ware tradition originating from the north of the Carpathians, which dates them rather to the mid–3rd millennium, although some poorly equipped ones may be earlier.

·         Dalmatia and the east Adriatic coast: a large tumulus province extending all along the Dalmatian coast into its hinterland, reaching into Bosnia and probably Albania, as well as North Italy and Apulia. These are part of the Adriatic province of the Vučedol culture.

·         Transdanubia, south-west Slovakia, and the Austrian Burgenland show some coherent cluster of tumuli with other Yamna links, such as a copper dagger, and a hair spiral. Neighbouring the Little Hungarian Plain, culturally it belongs to Makó/Kosihý–Čaka, Vučedol, and early Somogyvár.

·         The largest continuous tumulus zone, as in the case of the cord decoration, is the distribution area of the Corded Ware and Single Grave cultures of central and north-central Europe. These are small tumuli, probably receiving the idea through Austria and Moravia, through the northern Carpathians into Poland (the origin of the A-horizon, see §VI.3.3. East-Central Europe and Globular Amphora), or more likely south-east Poland through contacts with the rivers San, Prut and Dniester, and the Yamna there.

Anthropomorphic stelae

Large anthropomorphic stone stelae seem to have first appeared in the Mikhailovka I culture in the second half of the 4th millennium. Mikhailovka I areas were replaced by the Usatovo culture (related to Trypillia), but its culture continued in the Kemi-Oba culture of Crimea. Carved stone stelae appear to have expanded in frequency and elaboration in both territories, and in part of the north Pontic steppes, after about 3300 BC (Anthony 2007).

Strikingly similar stone stelae appeared later in the Caucasus, Troy, and also in central and western Europe, and with special frequency in the Swiss Alps and in the Provence, with examples also in the Iberian Peninsula and northern Germany. A maritime route for some of these cultural expansions has been proposed, which would justify e.g. its early presence in Troy (Anthony 2007).

Associated cultures

Mainly associated with funerary customs in the Yamna horizon, the use of other carved anthropomorphic stones seems to herald the influence of the Yamna culture in Europe. The first wave of the warrior ideology starts around the mid–4th millennium, probably coinciding with the expansion of late Repin / east Yamna settlers.

Rich single graves, daggers, flint and copper halberds, or anthropomorphic stelae are part of the new Mediterranean trends. Thus, pre-Beaker Italy shows the Gaudo culture (ca 3300 BC), the Remedello and Spilamberto culture (ca. 3400/3300 BC), and the potentially slightly earlier Rinaldone culture. Statues-menhirs appear in southern France, and Italian influence is felt in the Alps and south-eastern France in the late 4th millennium, and later in cultures of macro-villages appear in southern Iberia (Jeunesse 2015).

The building of tumuli, the enhancement of gender distinctions, and the internationalisation of special objects made of rare materials as status indicators are seen slightly later.  This influence was seen in the Corded Ware/Single Grave culture in central and eastern Europe in the east, Vučedol in the western Balkans, Makó/Kosihý–Čaka/Somogyvár in the Carpathian Basin and even the early Bell Beaker culture in south-western Europe around 2700/2600 BC (Harrison and Heyd 2007). Stone stelae and figurines might have also been used quite differently, or for different purposes, in certain local cultures (Robb 2009; Díaz-Guardamino 2014).

Radiocarbon dates from the north Pontic steppe show the late presence of steppe material cultures in the Carpathian EBA (ca. 2500 BC), in the Makó/Kosihý–Čaka/Somogyvár–Vinkovci, late Vučedol, and others like Schneckenberg-Glina III, Csepel, or Early Nagyrév. These cultures have been argued to form a cultural unity, and it is proposed that such influence may have come from Yamna settlers on the left bank of the Tisza River (Rassamakin and Nikolova 2008).

The appearance of the Classical Corded Ware culture from the Rhine to the Danube ca. 3000–2750 BC, apart from all these reasons, was facilitated by the previous expansion of the similar Globular Amphora culture, which must have worked as a catalyser, not only because of its similar regional expansion, but also because of its structural similarities with later Bronze Age stages. Globular Amphora was itself rooted in the previous TRB tradition, in the same region (Heyd 2011).

Another common Late Copper Age trait were the sets of weaponry that became associated with individual graves: the battle axe and flint dagger for the Corded Ware; copper shaft–hole axes for Makó, Vučedol, and related groups; and the bow and arrow and copper dagger for the users of Bell Beakers. This weaponry and its symbolism define the idealised image of the Late Copper Age warrior (Heyd 2011).

Signs of this transformation in south-west Europe, from Iberia through Atlantic façade to the Rhine delta, include scattered perforated battle axes of various styles in northern Iberia (3000–2500 BC), and daggers of flint and copper in collective tombs of central Portugal, the Algarve, and Andalusia (3000–2700 BC). The demographic or economic pressure of Yamna migrants must have been responsible for the events in southern and west-central Iberia that led to the creation of macro-villages, i.e. the migration from villages and hamlets into enormous settlements, with their satellites, outlying forts, and cemeteries of megalithic collective tombs (Heyd 2011).

In the end, supra-regional cultures superseding smaller, regional-based cultures of the earlier Copper Age represented a cultural phenomenon that united wide regions of Europe. Influenced by these European trends was born the Proto-Beaker package in west Iberia, expanding quickly into Central Europe, probably triggering cultural adoption, and accompanied only by minor population movements, if at all (Heyd 2011).

Late European farmers

Three individuals from the Remedello culture, probably all of haplogroup I2a1a1a1-Y3992+ (formed ca. 9400 BC, TMRCA ca. 6700 BC), and from Ötzi the Iceman, of haplogroup G2a2a1a2a1a-L166 (ca. 3500–3100 BC), all of northern Italy, show a high affinity with Chalcolithic samples from central Anatolia at Kumtepe. This affinity is higher between them than with earlier Anatolian Neolithic populations, which is against the interpretation of Remedello’s ancestry representing a relict population stemming from Neolithic farmers (Hofmanova et al. 2016).

Because of their shared drift with CHG ancestry independent of steppe expansions, and because Kumtepe predates the northern Italian group by some 1,000 years, it has been proposed that they represent a more recent, yet undescribed, gene flow process from Anatolia into Europe. This Anatolian region shows a continued ‘eastern’ migration found in Anatolian Chalcolithic samples (Kilinc et al. 2016; Lazaridis et al. 2017).

Three Baden samples (ca. 3600–2850 BC) show no contribution of Steppe ancestry (Lipson et al. 2017), with one hg. G2a2b2a1a1c1a-Z1903 (formed ca. 6000 BC, TMRCA ca. 2400 BC), which—together with the genetic picture of Globular Amphora (see §vi.3. Disintegrating Uralians)—supports the cultural rather than demic diffusion of concepts related to the Yamna culture during the “Transformation of Europe”.

Later cultures emerging in the Balkans near Yamna show contributions from the steppe, though: two of three samples of the Vučedol culture (ca. 2800–2700 BC) show Steppe-related ancestry over a mainly Balkan Chalcolithic population, with one sample from the Vučedol Tell of G2a2a1a2a-Z6488 lineage, and another from Beli Manastir–Popova Zemlja, Croatia (margins of the Vučedol area) of R1b1a2a2-Z2103 subclade (Mathieson et al. 2018). This supports the interpretation of (at least some) Balkan LCA cultures as a mixture of local and steppe populations.




Spread of Pins

The spread of catapult-shaped bone pins developed in parallel in Repin and northern Caucasus areas. They were later modernised as hammer-headed pins ca. 3000 BC in the early Yamna culture on the north Pontic area. The largest number of pins has been found on the Caspian Steppes and in the Lower Don regions though people living in these regions were not the first and the only designers and users of such bone items.

Bone (horn) pins occupy a special place among acces-sories spread in the Steppe and North Caucasus areas. They were dated to different archaeological cultures and several typologies of pins were proposed. These typologies were based on differences in size, construction details as well as ornamentation.

Usually typological classifications are used as key elements in constructing chronological and cultural models. Indeed, different types of pins, i.e. cata-pult-shaped, hammer-headed, crook-shaped, stem-shaped, nail-shaped pins, were spread in many cultures. Sets of such pins are treated as supra-cultural elements and are used to synchronize in time different groups of people living in various areas.

Gorodtsov (1915) dated back hammer-headed pins to the Catacomb culture whereas Kovaleva (1991) dated them back to the Yamnaya culture. On the other hand Latynin (1967) believed that hammer-headed pins were used by Yamnaya-Majkop population.

Gey (2000) has suggested that such pins were common in the Black Sea area and the North Caucasus foothills among Novotitorovskaya, Early Catacomb, North Caucasus, Late Yamnaya population groups within wide chronological and spatial ranges.

Several pins have been found in the Poltavka and Fatyanova graves as well as the Kuro-Araxes site in Georgia (they are dated to the final stages of the aforesaid cultures). Sherratt (1997) considered them among specific cultural features which link the northern Caucasus and the steppes into a single cultural zone.

Catapult-shaped pins appeared earlier than hammer-headed pins. Hammer-headed pins with a straight stem decorated with horizon-tal cut lines and hatched stripes are believed to be the earliest. Pins decorated with geometric ornamentation are deemed to be the latest. Chronologically, non-decorated pins may be placed in between these two groups.

Pins of different types seem to have been in use in parallel both on the steppe and in the North-Caucasus areas. They are found in the same graves. Such coexistence is confirmed by kurgan stratigraphy, i.e. when a grave containing a pin of one type overlies another grave where a pin of a different type has been uncovered and vice versa.

The type of the stem cannot be used as a strong classification attribute as the pins with the earliest ornamentation, i.e. horizontal lines, may have both a cylindrical and spindle-like stem. For example, hammer-headed pin with spindle-shaped stem decorated with horizontal lines from Sukhaya Termista I.

Therefore, the discussion about pins is centered on two major issues: (i) what culture/cultures they belonged to; and (ii) what time they are dated to, i.e. when they first appeared; how long they were used; the period to which the latest pins could be dated.

The largest number of pins has been found on the

Caspian Steppes and in the Lower Don regions  though

people living in these regions were not the first and the

only designers and users of such bone items.

The largest number of pins has been found on the

Caspian Steppes and in the Lower Don regions  though

people living in these regions were not the first and the

only designers and users of such bone items.

The largest number of pins has been found on the

Caspian Steppes and in the Lower Don regions  though

people living in these regions were not the first and the

only designers and users of such bone items.

The largest number of pins has been found on the

Caspian Steppes and in the Lower Don regions  though

people living in these regions were not the first and the

only designers and users of such bone items.

The largest number of pins has been found on the

Caspian Steppes and in the Lower Don regions  though

people living in these regions were not the first and the

only designers and users of such bone items.

The largest number of pins has been found on the

Caspian Steppes and in the Lower Don regions  though

people living in these regions were not the first and the

only designers and users of such bone items.

The largest number of pins has been found on the

Caspian Steppes and in the Lower Don regions  though

people living in these regions were not the first and the

only designers and users of such bone items.

The largest number of pins has been found on the

Caspian Steppes and in the Lower Don regions  though

people living in these regions were not the first and the

only designers and users of such bone items.

The largest number of pins has been found on the

Caspian Steppes and in the Lower Don regions  though

people living in these regions were not the first and the

only designers and users of such bone items.

The largest number of pins has been found on the

Caspian Steppes and in the Lower Don regions  though

people living in these regions were not the first and the

only designers and users of such bone items.

The largest number of pins has been found on the

Caspian Steppes and in the Lower Don regions  though

people living in these regions were not the first and the

only designers and users of such bone items.

The largest number of pins has been found on the

Caspian Steppes and in the Lower Don regions  though

people living in these regions were not the first and the

only designers and users of such bone items.

The largest number of pins has been found on the

Caspian Steppes and in the Lower Don regions  though

people living in these regions were not the first and the

only designers and users of such bone items.

The largest number of pins has been found on the

Caspian Steppes and in the Lower Don regions  though

people living in these regions were not the first and the

only designers and users of such bone items.

The largest number of pins has been found on the

Caspian Steppes and in the Lower Don regions  though

people living in these regions were not the first and the

only designers and users of such bone items.

The largest number of pins has been found on the

Caspian Steppes and in the Lower Don regions  though

people living in these regions were not the first and the

only designers and users of such bone items.

The largest number of pins has been found on the

Caspian Steppes and in the Lower Don regions  though

people living in these regions were not the first and the

only designers and users of such bone items.

There are 221 pins and their fragments in the database which covers the North-West Caspian Steppes with the western part of the Middle Yergueni Hills (Rostovskaya oblast, Remontnensky region).

The results of cluster analysis of the Bronze Age graves of Kalmykia and the study of Bronze Age cultures of the Caspian Steppe region have shown that in many steppe Bronze Age cultures bone pins were used as funerary offerings together with other items for quite a long period. But relative chronology of pins does not show how long such pins were in use.

The earliest date is the 14C date of a catapult-shaped pin that comes from a Repin grave at Pa-nitskoye 6A. The pot of the Repin type has been discovered in the same grave. Two more radiocarbon dates of humans from the same grave have been obtained as well. The date obtained on bones of the male correlates with the date of the bone pin (4500±120).

These two dates help us identify the time of pin emer-gence as 3200-3100 cal BC. While the author of the ex-cavation believes the clay pot from Panitskoye 6A to be a later imitation of the Khvalynsk-Berezhnovka ceramic tradition (Mimokhod, 2009), offerings from the grave in question are deemed to be much younger than the goods obtained from Khvalynsk burials, with the radiocarbon dates of the latter pointing to the time interval for Khvalynsk I and II cemeteries as 4400-4300 cal BC (Shishlina et al., 2009). The time interval for the Steppe Eneolithic culture is 4300-3800 cal BC (Shishlina, 2008). Analyzing human remains from the Panitskoye grave, Khokhlov suggests that the male cranium belongs to the Yamnaya steppe group of the Volga region (Mimokhod, 2009). Catapult-shaped pins or bone catapults of different modifications with or without ornamentation appeared in Early Yamnaya and Repin culture graves among other grave offerings. Such graves are localized at the North Caucasus Foothills and in the Asov Sea region, they are found on fewer occasions in the Lower Volga and the Ural regions (Tkachev, 2000). For example, a bone pin with horizontal ornamentation used as a part of a neck-lace made of perforated river shells has been found to-gether with two catapult-shaped pins at Kavkazsky 2, kurgan 7, grave 9 (Kozyumenko et al., 2001). Grave offerings at Gerasimovka II, kurgan 4, grave 2, include a clay pot of the Repin type, a copper knife and clips as well as catapult-shaped pins. Two skulls were buried nearby (Porokhova, 1992). The next date is the 14C date of a hammer-headed pin found at Mandjikiny (Fig. 2: 1). It is a typical Yamnaya culture grave (Fig. 3: 1) made in a rectangular pit roofed with wooden boards. An adult female lying in a contract-ed supine posture was placed on its bottom. The 14C date of the pin raises two issues. First, the date, i.e. 3000 cal BC, is rather early for a pin which, according to the pro-posed classification, should be attributed to type 4. The pin has a straight stem and geometrical ornamentation. But according to the 14C date, chronologically pins of such type should follow right after catapult-shaped pins. Two more 14C dates have been obtained for the same grave, namely wood and human (female) bones (Table 3, Fig. 5). These two dates show that the grave should be dated to the time interval, which is 260 years later than the time of the bone pin production (Table 3). It is assumed that in all cultures pins were used for a long time. Some pins have broken heads, but apparently people did not throw them away. Broken hammers or stems were polished, an additional hole could be perforated in the stem (for ex-ample, Vostochny Manych, Left Bank II, 66, kurgan 35, grave 1), or pins with one of the hammer missing could be placed inside the grave (for example, Vostochny Manych, Left Bank II, 66, kurgan 30, grave 1). It implies that a lot of time could have passed between the time when the pin was made and the time when it was placed inside the grave. An expensive pin remained a very valu-able item and was handed over from generation to gen-eration. The last owner of the pin in question was a very old woman. Hence, this accessory was in use for more than 200 years. At least, radiocarbon dates obtained point to this fact. Another type of bone pins with a straight cylindrical stem and ornamentation in the form of seven parallel crosslines and a two-part ornamental frieze covered by diagonal parallel lines located below can be attributed to type 1, which is considered to be the earliest type of bone hammer-headed pins (Fig. 2: 7). However, according to 14C date obtained, the pin from Sukhaya Termista II, kurgan 1, grave 11 was made around 2800 cal BC, it belonged to a young woman of 25 years for a short period (Fig. 6). When the woman died, the pin was placed inside her grave. The next 14C date is that of a pin of type 2, i.e. a pin with a thin stem without ornamentation uncovered in the Steppe North Caucasus grave at Mu-Sharet I, kurgan 2, grave 3 (Fig. 2: 2). Such pins are typical for the Yamnaya culture and they are found in other culture graves quite rarely. The date obtained points to the interval 3000-2800 cal BC. It was the time when there were no North Cauca-sus people on the steppes yet. Maybe, these two pins and one fragment (which was dated) of type 2 were placed into the grave much later than the time they had been produced. Group 4 includes remaining four 14C dates obtained for pins of different types. They have been uncovered in Early Catacomb (Fig. 3: 3, 4), Yamnaya-Catacomb (Fig. 3: 2) and Multi-cultural graves. Four pins can be attributed to type 4 (Fig. 2: 3, 4, 6, 8), which is character-ized by a cigar-shaped stem decorated with geometrical figures such as hatched stripes, rhombs, triangles framed below by a belt with triangles. According to Gey (2000) classification, such pins date back to the latest type and were in use until the end of 3000 BC. Hence, these three pins practically fall within the same chronological hori-zon. We can assume that pins of this type were wide-spread around 2800-2600 cal BC. A “model pattern pin” was copied and subsequently rolled out throughout a local multi-cultural environment. Different variations of the same type were in use in parallel. The 14C date of a Multi-cultural grave at Mu-Sharet-4, k.2, g.1, is a little bit older than the others, 2900-2800 cal BC. We believe that the 14C date indicates the time of the item origin; the pin itself was placed into the grave much later. It was broken but was not thrown away and was still used. Maybe such 14C date will help us specify the cultural attribution of the grave, which probably does not belong to the Multi-cultural group but may be attributed to the Early Cata-comb culture (Shishlina, 2008). 14C data obtained for bone pins are useful for discus-sion of the reservoir effect correction. Almost all dates of human bones show the apparent age (Plicht et al., 2007 and Shishlina et al., 2009). Table 3 shows that there is no offset for the pair obtained from the Repin and Yamnaya culture graves (Fig. 4: 6). Dates of terrestrial samples, i.e. horn and wood, and dates of human bone coincide. Other pairs, i.e. human bone and wood, show the offset for the Yamnaya culture no more than 200 years (Shishlina, 2008). However, the size of the offset obtained for other subsequent cultures, i.e. Early Catacomb (Figs. 7 and 8) and Yamnaya-Catacomb (Fig. 9), varies significantly between 184 and 756 years. An apparent age offset varies due to the variation of climate and the reconstructed diet system (Shishlina et al., in print). It also becomes evident when we compare dates obtained for human bones and bone pins. An inter-esting date correlation has been obtained for a primary burial (a pin and a female bone) and a secondary burial from the Temrta burial ground: the 14C age of the pin coincides with the age of the sheep (terrestrial samples nondependent on the reservoir effect), while the date of the female bone is 233 years older (Table 3; Fig. 7). Isotope data confirm the hypothesis that the diet of hu-mans was based on river products (Table 3).



The presence of bone pins in the graves of Bronze Age steppe cultures implies that probably, they were used during a rather long period and within a rather vast area. Their absence indicates that the production of such pins terminated and they fell out of usage. 14C data obtained help to reconstruct how such pins were used, at least in the cultural environment of the Caspian Steppes linked to the Lower Volga, the Lower Don regions as well as the North Caucasus not only geographically but also cultural-ly. It is clear that the first pins that appeared on the Steppes were catapult-shaped. 14C date of such items found at Panitskoye 6A confirms this conclusion made by many scholars before the radiocarbon dating was con-ducted. Such pins are the earliest and they were spread starting from the Repin and Early Yamnaya cultures at the end of 4000 cal BC (Morgunova, 2006). The population of the Yamnaya culture that inherited Repin traditions (Trifonov, 1996) modernized the pins and a hammer-headed pin appeared starting from 3000 cal BC. When we compare the 14C age of such pins, it turns out that their shape, size as well as the type of or-namentation did not play a significant role, though many scholars consider these characteristics very important. Pins with a later type of ornamentation, according to many classifications (Gey, 2000) are the earliest. Stem-shaped pins were used during the same period as orna-mented hammer-headed pins with a cylindrical or cigar-shaped stem. Trace analyses of bone pins conducted by Usachuk (2001; 2002) demonstrate that quite often orna-mentation was made in a very sloppy manner by a quick run of a thin metal blade. It is assumed that pins could be the objects of exchange but sometimes family craftsmen made them locally for family use only. Everybody who saw pins knows that each pin is characterized by its own, unique style of decoration, though its elements, i.e. rhombs, triangles, stripes and zigzags, look alike. Pins were considered to be very special and probably were treated as sacral objects. On the Caspian Steppes they are found quite often in the graves of children and teenagers or women who were very old or of reporoduc-tive age but were placed in male graves on very rare occasions. Usachuk (2002) points out that some pins were used for a very short period because traces of wear are hardly seen. Other pins were used for a very long period. Their surface was very polished and the ornamen-tation was worn-out. Not only the whole objects but their fragments were used (Usachuk, 2001 and 2002). This might be the main reason that the date of the pin origin may differ from the date of its placement into the grave. You may see such examples in Table 3. Finally, how can we define the interval of use of such special items? Data obtained suggest that hammer-headed pins appeared around 3000 cal BC. 2800-2600 cal BC is the period when such pins were in active use. Moreover, Yamnaya and Early Catacomb population preferred to use such accessories. Yamnaya-Catacomb, North Cauca-sus populations also used them but not in such great numbers. After 2600 cal BC pins disappeared. Most likely, this type of accessories went out of fashion, at least in the steppe environment where it was used for special purpos-es. Indeed, in the latest East Manych culture hammer-headed pins are found very seldom (Kiyashko, 1992). However, the story presented reflects a special cultur-al context of only one region, i.e. the Caspian Steppes. The subsequent studies of bone pins uncovered in other regions will help us get an insight as to how and when these beautiful jewelry pieces were used in other cultural traditions.

Not only do we humans enjoy talking – and talking a lot – we also do so in very different ways: about 6,000 languages are spoken today worldwide. How this wealth of expression developed, however, largely remains a mystery. A group of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, has now found that word-orders in languages from different language families evolve differently. This contradicts the common understanding that word-order develops in accordance with a set of universal rules, applicable to all languages. Researchers have concluded that languages do not primarily follow innate rules of language processing in the brain. Rather, sentence structure is determined by the historical context in which a language develops.

The Indo-European languages belong to one of the widest spread language families of the world. For the last two millenia, many of these languages have been written, and their history is relatively clear. But controversy remains about the time and place of the origins of the family. A large international team, including MPI researcher Michael Dunn, reports the results of an innovative Bayesian phylogeographic analysis of Indo-European linguistic and spatial data. Their paper ‘Mapping the Origins and Expansion of the Indo-European Language Family’ appeared this week in Science.

The majority view in historical linguistics is that the homeland of the Indo-European language family was located in the Pontic steppes (present day Ukraine) around 6000 years ago. The evidence for this comes from linguistic paleontology: in particular, certain words to do with the technology of wheeled vehicles are arguably present across all the branches of the Indo-European family; and archaeology tells us that wheeled vehicles arose no earlier than this date. The minority view links the origins of Indo-European with the spread of farming from Anatolia 8000-9500 years ago.

The minority view is decisively supported by the present analysis in this week’s Science. This analysis combines a model of the evolution of the lexicons of individual languages with an explicit spatial model of the dispersal of the speakers of those languages. Known events in the past (the date of attestation dead languages, as well as events which can be fixed from archaeology or the historical record) are used to calibrate the inferred family tree against time.

Maximum clade credibility tree for the 103 Indo-European languages in our sample. Branches are colored to indicate the main sub-families. The thickness of the branches reflects the relative rate of spatial diffusion along branches. Blue bars represent confidence intervals for the node ages. The gray density represents the estimate for the root age. All major nodes were supported by a posterior probability 0.95 except those indicated with a ‘*

The lexical data used in this analysis come from the Indo-European Lexical Cognacy Database (IELex). This database has been developed in MPI’s Evolutionary Processes in Language and Culture group, and provides a large, high-quality collection of language data suitable for phylogenetic analysis. Beyond the intrinsic interest of uncovering the history of language families and their speakers, phylogenetic trees are crucially important for understanding evolution and diversity in many human sciences, from syntax and semantics to social structure.

Indo-European Origins and Geography

Indo-European Origins and Geography


 Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen

De ulike indoeuropeiske språkenes rekkefølge:mapiefamily

mapproto indo 008










Posted Image

Kurgan hypothesis

Map showing the inferred geographic origin of the Indo-European language family. The inferred point of origin is plotted in translucent red such that darker areas correspond to increased probability. The blue polygons delineate the proposed origin area under the Steppe hypothesis; dark blue represents the initial suggested Steppe homeland, and light blue denotes a later version of the Steppe hypothesis. The yellow polygon delineates the proposed origin under the Anatolian hypothesis. A green star in the steppe region shows the location of the centroid of the sampled languages.

ScreenHunter_52 Aug. 26 17.24

Proto-Indo-European homeland in Neolithic Anatolia (Bouckaert et al.)

Indo-European, Atkinson & Gray and the culture fitting game













File:Cesare prima Gallia 58 a.C. jpg.jpg

Europa 58 f.vt.

File:Cultures, 1200 BC.PNG

A simplified map of archaeological cultures of the late Bronze Age (c. 1200 BC).

Blå: Terramare culture
Rød: Urnfield culture
Orange: northern Urnfield culture
Rosa: Lusatian culture
Lilla: Knovíz culture
Mørkegrønn: Danubian culture
Lysegrønn: Atlantic Bronze Age
Gul: Nordic Bronze Age


Early Iron Age:
dark green: Nordic Bronze Age
dark red: Jastorf culture
yellow: Harpstedt-Nienburg group
orange: Celtic groups
olive: Pomeranian culture
green: House urns culture
reddish: East Baltic culture
lilac: West Baltic cairns culture
turquoise; Milogrady culture
black: estonic group

File:Archeological cultures in Northern and Central Europe at the late pre-Roman Iron Age.svg.png

Late Pre-Roman Iron Age:
dark green: Nordic group
dark red: late phase Jastorf culture
buff: Harpstedt-Nienburg group
green: House Urns culture
dark brown: Oksywie culture
red: Gubin group of Jastorf
olive: Przeworsk culture
lilac: West-Baltic cairns culture
reddish: East-Baltic culture
turquoise: Zarubincy culture
orange: Celtic

Hilversum culture

Urnfield culture

Jastorf culture

File:Europa languages.jpg

File:Archeological cultures in Northern and Central Europe at the late pre-Roman Iron Age.svg.png

Late Pre-Roman Iron Age:
dark green: Nordic group
dark red: late phase Jastorf culture
buff: Harpstedt-Nienburg group
green: House Urns culture
dark brown: Oksywie culture
red: Gubin group of Jastorf
olive: Przeworsk culture
lilac: West-Baltic cairns culture
reddish: East-Baltic culture
turquoise: Zarubincy culture
orange: Celtic

File:Corded Ware culture.png

File:Andronovo culture.png

File:Indo-Iranian origins.png

Population strata in the West Siberian plain (Baraba forest steppe)

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